This two-fer from Collectors' Choice Music features a pair of out-of-print Jackie Gleason 10" discs: Lover's Rhapsody and And Awaaay We Go!. In addition, the single CD includes nine bonus tracks -- a trio of which have remained previously unissued. The pairing of these EPs provides a unique cross-section of Gleason's skills at writing and conducting orchestrations not only for romantic but also comedic moods. While not necessarily garnering his moniker as "The Great One" for any skills other than acting, Gleason's impeccable timing and judicious sense of drama contribute to the popularity and artistic success of his musical endeavors as well. Lover's Rhapsody may well be the precursor to the entire "space-age bachelor pad" [think: elevator music] subgenre of easy listening. The sexy and otherwise romantic composition titles are the equivalent of the "cocktail hour" generation's make-out music. Emotional tensions expressed by titles such as "Desire" or "Temptation" are recreated with layer upon layer of slow and mid-tempos, swirling strings, and signature dramatic tension. Gleason's acting sensibility takes on broader hues during And Awaaay We Go!. These tracks are based on music written for characters in his CBS variety television show -- which eventually ran for nearly two decades. While uncredited, the orchestra Gleason used on his show circa this recording was directed by Ray Bloch. Various characters from Gleason's one-man television cabaret are recreated into mini-audio dramas and comedic songs. Oddly, the theme to the television show -- "Melancholy Serenade" -- was not originally included on And Awaaay We Go!. Collectors' Choice Music wisely chose to incorporate it into this CD edition. The other bonus tracks are not otherwise thematically connected to the main attractions and feature Gleason's arrangements of pop music standards such as "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me" and "Crazy Rhythm."
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer