Various Artists

Great Songwriters [Soho]

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This sloppily assembled and packaged three-CD box set presents 60 period recordings of standards written by some of the great American songwriters of the first half of the 20th century, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Victor Herbert, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Harry Warren, and Jimmy Van Heusen. The tracks, recorded between 1927 and 1949, feature such singers and bandleaders as Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Jeanette MacDonald, Glenn Miller, the Mills Brothers, Paul Robeson, Artie Shaw, Dinah Shore, and Frank Sinatra. The compilers didn't have to pay a penny to use the recordings, since they are in the public domain in Europe. But that also means the tracks were transferred from secondary sources, and the sound is often muffled. That uneven quality is mirrored in the packaging, which has curious inclusions and omissions. The album cover features a photograph of Hoagy Carmichael, for example, but he is not on the album otherwise, either as a writer or performer! Michael Heatley's brief liner notes are littered with factual errors. And the songwriting credits, with the exception of "I. Gershwin" and "Hart," omit the songs' lyricists, forgetting such well-known figures as Oscar Hammerstein II and Johnny Mercer, as well as a host of lesser-known but equally talented ones. Basically, the album is just a random miscellany of vintage tracks masquerading as a comprehensive overview of the great American songwriters. Unless encountered at a very low price, it should be bypassed by fans of this music.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:07
2 3:12
3 3:21
4 3:17
5 3:15
6 2:51
7 3:20
8 3:12
9 2:45
10 3:31
11 2:38
12 3:03
13 3:21
14 2:29
15 2:50
16 3:20
17 3:08
18 2:42
19 3:47
20 3:03

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
blue highlight denotes track pick