Legendary Song Stylist

Ethel Merman

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Legendary Song Stylist Review

by William Ruhlmann

In the 1930s and 1940s, when Ethel Merman was the reigning queen of Broadway but the recording of original Broadway cast albums was rare, Merman made occasional trips to the recording studio for various labels, usually to cut a few songs from her current stage vehicle. She also appeared in a few films, and was heard on radio now and then. This British compilation draws together 20 tracks taken from all those sources. Included are the following: three of the four songs from her first recording session that produced commercial releases, including Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean?," which became a chart hit for her; "Eadie Was a Lady," a Top Ten hit from the 1932 musical Take a Chance; "An Earful of Music," a chart hit from the 1934 film Kid Millions; Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick out of You," a chart hit from the 1934 musical Anything Goes; "It's the Animal in Me," from the 1935 film The Big Broadcast of 1936; Porter's "You're the Top," done as a duet with co-star Bing Crosby; all four songs from a 1936 session of songs from Porter's musical Red Hot and Blue; two of the four songs recorded for the 1939 musical Stars in Your Eyes; two songs from Porter's 1940 musical Panama Hattie; and Berlin's "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly," from the 1946 musical Annie Get Your Gun. Presumably, this material has fallen out of copyright in Europe, and the compilers were able to master old discs. They haven't taken the kind of care with the sound or the documentation that one might have hoped, but in the U.S. at least three major labels would've had to cooperate to make a similar collection, and that's unlikely.