Harold Arlen

I Love to Sing: The Other Songs of Harold Arlen

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Here's a magnificent alternative to the conventional Harold Arlen tribute album. Back in 1986 when the producers assembled and presented this compilation of historical recordings, their stated purpose was to avoid Arlen's most famous melodies and popular interpretations in favor of the less familiar or downright rare. This they accomplished, although to be sure some of these tunes are quite well known. For the musical/historical connoisseur, the inclusion of detailed solo sequence notes for each recording is a pure delight. This kind of referencing (identifying exactly who solos and for how many bars) is seldom provided nowadays, even in well-researched box sets. Opening and closing the album like bookends, the title track and "Says Who? Says You, Says I!" are sung by Cab Calloway. The rest of the selections are laid out in almost perfect chronological sequence, concentrating at first on the early '30s and finishing off with a handful of gems from the early to mid-'40s. A 1931 broadcast transcript yields two uncommon titles performed by Earl Burtnett and his orchestra with a vocal by banjo/guitarist Jesse Kirkpatrick and the Biltmore Trio. The year 1932 is well represented with performances by Roane's Pennsylvanians, Isham Jones, Arlen himself with Leo Reisman's orchestra, and an Afro-American a cappella vocal group called Roland Smith's Rascals. A rare alternate take of Bing Crosby singing "I've Got the World on a String" backed by a band including Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan, and Eddie Lang leads to performances by the Washboard Rhythm Kings, Dick Powell, Don Redman, and Henry "Red" Allen. This winning diversity is sustained throughout the album as Big Joe Turner's gooseflesh-inducing version of "Blues in the Night" is sandwiched between pop tunes sung by Mildred Bailey and Tommy Dorsey's Connie Haines. This is one excellent retrospective, unusually well researched and carefully presented with loving attention to detail.