Record making was only one of Noel Coward's many artistic activities, and not one of the main ones. But just as he was an ideal actor in his own plays, he was also the ideal singer of his own songs, and he periodically turned up in the studios of HMV Records to cut singles, usually of his own compositions. The third volume of Naxos Nostalgia's reissue series of his complete recordings presents each side of ten singles recorded between 1936 and 1943. But the disc starts out with a track that is out of chronology. As a producer's note reveals, a rejected take of "Mad About the Boy" from 1932 became available just as Mad Dogs & Englishmen: Complete Recordings, Vol. 2, on which it should have appeared, was being pressed. One can hardly complain that it has been used to title and lead off the third volume, since it is, of course, one of Coward's best-known songs and since his rendition, whatever the HMV engineers may have thought at the time, is superb (if sonically challenged). Also, it was recorded mere days after it appeared in the Coward show Words and Music for the first time. There isn't always a close association between the recordings and the dates of their on-stage introductions, though the five songs from Operette, among them the hilarious "The Stately Homes of England," were recorded around the show's London opening. Coward doesn't just record his own songs, either. His 1941 single of "London Pride," a song to inspire his hometown during the Blitz, is given the appropriate B-side of Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern's "The Last Time I Saw Paris." And there are several other war-related numbers, including "There Have Been Songs in England" and the scathingly sarcastic "Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans."
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann