Surprisingly (and temporarily) employed by Mitch Miller at the major label Columbia Records, Lee Wiley followed up the stunning Night in Manhattan with two further 10" LPs recorded in the late fall of 1951 and released simultaneously in 1952, discs that took off from her celebrated songbook albums for the Liberty Music Shop label back in 1939-40. At that time, she had devoted collections to George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and Harold Arlen. Now, she addressed Vincent Youmans and Irving Berlin. Unlike Night in Manhattan, which featured Bobby Hackett, Joe Bushkin, and a string section for accompaniment (and unlike the Liberty Music Shop albums that featured a small jazz band), the Youmans and Berlin LPs used a double-piano backup from Stan Freeman and Cy Walter. For the Youmans album, Wiley selected eight of the best-known titles from the songwriter's relatively small catalog, songs from his shows No, No, Nanette, Hit the Deck, Smiles, Take a Chance, and Great Day! She started with the most famous Youmans title, "Tea for Two," disguising it by including the rarely sung introductory verse. With her slightly grainy, slightly throaty voice, she brought depth to the more serious lyrics, such as "More Than You Know," but she also enthusiastically (if politely) expressed the pep of upbeat numbers like "Rise 'n' Shine." And she left plenty of room for the pianos to offer an updated version of the 1920s style of the tunes. The result was a worthy addition to her songbook series.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann