Though Irving Berlin made relatively few commercial recordings, he did sing in public throughout his career, beginning with his days as a singing waiter in the early years of the 20th century and continuing through his appearances in his service show This Is the Army in the 1940s. As a songwriter for various shows and films, he also had occasion to make promotional appearances and to record demonstration records of his songs. This collection draws upon mostly previously unreleased recordings by Berlin from various sources. 1914's "Follow the Crowd," discovered in the early '90s, and 1962's "It Gets Lonely in the White House," recently unearthed, find the songwriter in a professional recording studio. Six tracks come from airchecks of the 1930s and '40s in which Berlin reprises some of his best-known songs, including "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "God Bless America." There are also nine demos for the 1949 musical Miss Liberty and five from the 1950 show Call Me Madam. The demos will be of particular interest to collectors, since six of the tracks are cut songs that didn't make it into the shows. Berlin sometimes reused the melodies -- "The Story of Nell and the Police Gazette" is set to the same tune as the earlier song "Mr. Monotony," and "Free" turned into "Snow" in the 1954 film White Christmas -- but some of the songs have been lost until now, and they can be timely. "The Hon'rable Profession of the Fourth Estate" is as biting an indictment of tabloid media as has ever been written, and "Business for a Good Girl Is Bad" addresses what is now called sexual harassment. Berlin has a thin, wheezy tenor that even today would deny him a singing career, but his feel for his own lyrics is good, and he sells his songs well.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Frank Parker