Alma Cogan

Happy Valley Sweetheart

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One of the many budget-priced collections that have kept the divine Miss C's name alive through the 21st century, Happy Valley Sweetheart takes its title, surprisingly, from one of her lesser-known B-sides ("Till I Waltz Again with You," also featured here, was the A-side) and delights the modern collector by steadfastly ignoring the cuts that turn up on most of Cogan's compilations. Of course, a handful of tried-and-trusted favorites are here, beginning with the opening "Bell Bottom Blues" (her first hit), and its follow-up "Little Things Mean a Lot." But present, too, are their respective B-sides -- "Love Me Again" and the irresistible "Canoodlin' Rag" -- while the compilers dip again into her earliest recordings to highlight such 78 rpm couplings as "To Be Worthy of You"/"Would You," "Waltz of Paree"/"Pretty Bride," and "Half as Much"/"Blue Tango," from the earliest days of her singing career. In fact, one side or the other of her first nine HMV singles are here, together with a smattering of later, and better-known cuts. It's a magnificent history lesson, then, that is spoiled only by its failure to present the sides in chronological order, and allow the listener to trace her development through three years of recording. As a reminder of just what a magnificent performer she was, however, it is an essential purchase.

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