Sometimes compared with Claude Thornhill and Reginald Forsythe, Larry Clinton devised danceable swing music for big band, some of it pleasantly quirky enough to compare favorably with the work of Raymond Scott. He also led a modestly popular dance orchestra that featured warm and personable vocalist Bea Wain. Prior to the time period represented on this compilation (1937-1949), Clinton wrote arrangements and hit songs for Tommy Dorsey like "Satan Takes a Holiday" and the ultra-popular "Dipsy Doodle." Dorsey, whose reputation as a conscienceless cut-throat businessman is legendary, actually pulled strings at RCA Victor to suppress Clinton's own recording (of his own song!) so that Dorsey could rake in maximum profits on his band's version. Among Clinton's best-remembered instrumental compositions, "A Study in Brown" was a hit for Glen Gray & the Casa Loma Orchestra in 1937. In addition to Clinton's own 1949 recording of that opus, this compilation is dotted with sequel studies in "Blue," "Green," "Red" and "Scarlet," as well as "Strictly for the Persians" and Clinton's theme song, "The Big Dipper." The instrumentals are interspersed with several rather self-conscious vocals by Ford Leary, one by "Canadian Crosby" Dick Todd, and 14 by Bea Wain, a charming chanteuse who left Clinton's band in 1939 to succeed first as a pop singer and then as a radio personality with her husband Andre Baruch as "Mr. and Mrs. Music" on WMCA in New York. Wain handles "Our Love Is Here to Stay" beautifully; she even brings passion and eloquence to Hoagy Carmichael's "Heart and Soul," a simple melody destined to be crucified by generations of small children on out-of-tune pianos in long-suffering households throughout the nation. As if to offer an alternative to Judy Garland's multiple borderline drug psychosis versions of "Over the Rainbow," Clinton and Wain gave the world a reassuringly swinging, down-to-earth rendition of this wistful song which composer Harold Arlen admitted originally sounded more suitable for Nelson Eddy than for little teenaged Judy Garland. This Living Era tribute to Clinton and Wain also contains several Classical Crossover pieces: "My Reverie" by Claude Debussy, Albert Ketèlbey's 1920 intermezzo "In a Persian Market" and "Ah, So Pure!" from Friedrich Von Flotow's 1947 opera Martha (see also Fats Waller's gorgeous solo piano version of 1939). It's worth noting that in addition to composing, arranging and directing his orchestra, Larry Clinton played trumpet, trombone and vibraphone. Note also the presence in his band of reedmen Babe Russin and John Van Eps, son of ragtime banjoist Fred and brother of guitarist George Van Eps.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf