Jane Russell

Jane Russell [Hallmark]

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Actress Jane Russell appeared in a series of movie musicals (or movies that had a song or two) in the early '50s, and she usually went into a recording studio to cut versions of the tunes she sang for disc release. She also made a series of recordings of hymns in a quartet also featuring Connie Haines, Beryl Davis, and either Rhonda Fleming or Della Russell. This material, most of which is long out of print, went out of copyright in Europe in the early 21st century (copyright extends only 50 years there), and the British Hallmark label has taken advantage of that occurrence to release this unlicensed compilation of Russell's early-'50s recordings, most of which are otherwise available only on hard-to-find vinyl. The major exception is the soundtrack material from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) -- "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love," "Bye Bye Baby," "A Little Girl from Little Rock," and "When Love Goes Wrong" (the last two with Marilyn Monroe) -- first heard on a Top Ten MGM Records LP and periodically reissued since. "Kisses and Tears," Russell's duet with Frank Sinatra on a song first heard in the film Double Dynamite, has turned up on Sinatra compilations since it first appeared as a single on Columbia Records in 1950. But one would be hard pressed to find her and Bob Hope's Capitol Records single combining "Am I in Love?" and "Wing Ding Tonight" from the 1952 film Son of Paleface; the tracks "Well I'll Be Switched!," "Any Gal from Texas" (a duet with Mary McCarty), "Lookin' for Trouble," and "What Is This That I Feel?" from the Mercury Records soundtrack to the 1954 film The French Line; or the gospel recordings, originally made for Coral Records. The disc doesn't contain all of Russell's recordings of the era, by any means, and the sound quality, suffering some surface noise on the transfers from old 78 rpms, as well as the non-existent annotations, make this a less than satisfactory collection. But it illustrates the value of limiting copyright to increase access to material that the major record companies can't be bothered to reissue, and Russell fans should welcome it.

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