Various Artists

I'm Beginning to See the Light: Dance Hits from the Second World War

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I'm Beginning to See the Light is a companion to, but not the soundtrack for, The War, the 2007 PBS miniseries on World War II produced and directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Whereas the soundtrack features a mix of new and old recordings intended to serve the purpose of the miniseries itself ("[to explore] the history and horror of World War II from an American perspective..."), I'm Beginning to See the Light features only recordings from the WWII era and keeps the mood buoyant and the rhythm upbeat (befitting its subtitle, "Dance Hits from the Second World War"). Disc producers Steve Berkowitz and Duncan Allardyee selected plenty of popular hits to evoke the era -- "Let Me Off Uptown" by Gene Krupa, "(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo" by Glenn Miller, "Sing, Sing, Sing" by Benny Goodman -- but fortunately kept the focus on great music no matter what the chart position. The best orchestra of them all during the '40s, Duke Ellington's, leads off with the wonderful "C Jam Blues," and prime contenders like Count Basie, Artie Shaw, and Tommy Dorsey each get a pair of features. Also, the disc includes two songs whose direct theme is the war effort itself -- Basie's "For the Good of Your Country" and Miller's "American Patrol." And, instead of sticking with jazz throughout, the original honky tonk standard "Pistol Packin' Mama" comes early on. (Al Dexter's Western swing sounds just fine sandwiched between Coleman Hawkins and Glenn Miller.) Whether it's taken as a sampler of excellent, timeless music or as a soundtrack to the times that the documentary illuminates, I'm Beginning to See the Light is a very good set.

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