By the time most adult-pop listeners began hearing them, mixed-gender vocal choruses had become reprehensible white-bread smootheners and straighteners of every glorious imperfection and interpretation a solo vocalist could conjure. Before the '50s, though, the best vocal choruses were capable of tremendous harmonies, and the Mel-Tones were counted among the best (along with the Modernaires and Six Hits and a Miss). Led by Mel Tormé, and including a young Les Baxter, the group appears on a few Tormé compilations, but isn't featured very often. The first of a two-volume set from Mr. Music, Live With the Mel-Tones, Vol. 1 includes performances from Tormé's 1948 TV show on NBC. Unfortunately, only half features the Mel-Tones, but there are many good performances; Tormé balances his effective solo versions of standards ("That Old Black Magic," "Everything Happens to Me") with a collegiate romp ("Fairmont College"), and bright, bouncy singalongs for the Mel-Tones ("It's a Most Unusual Day," "I Got the Sun in the Morning," "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along"). His occasional duet partner, Janet Waldo, is laughably poor in comparison to the mighty Mel, but the rest of this disc consists of enjoyable vocal music.
AllMusic Review by John Bush