Collectors' Choice Music presents a rare compilation featuring Lee Wiley's most prolific and oft-requested post-World War II extended-play platter, including three complete 10" discs that the vocalist cut for Columbia in the early '50s. When initially issued, Wiley had already experienced significant success as a traditional pop and torch singer circa the '30s. During this era she was supported by such notables as Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, and the Johnny Green-led Casa Loma Orchestra. Due to its thematic nature, this project could rightly be considered as an early Songbook or concept album. That said, it is Night in Manhattan that perhaps most accurately exemplifies the moods, sounds,and auras of The Big Apple after hours. Wiley's unmistakable voice yields a distinct, organic,and otherwise full-bodied timbre. She unleashes varying degrees of that charm, bringing to life the Great American Songbook classics "Any Time, Any Day, Anywhere" and "(I Don't Stand) A Ghost of a Chance (With You)" with her trademark sense of a distant and at times flawed vulnerability. Wiley is joined by Bobby Hackett and Joe Bushkin's Swinging Strings on Night in Manhattan. Comparatively, the Vincent Youmans and Irving Berlin anthologies offer collaborations with Stan Freeman and Cy Walter, who collectively continue building upon Wiley's considerable back catalog of similar "songbooks" cut throughout the '40s. These centered on the works of Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter, and George & Ira Gershwin. The original decision to cover both high-profile and obscure titles alike -- such as the elegant "Tea for Two" compared to the equally engaging "Why Oh Why" -- was an inspired one to be sure. Yet it is unquestionably Sings Irving Berlin that serves up one of the finest examples of the magic that can occur when a performer is given access to songs that at times sound as if they were penned specifically for them. Supported by a single keyboard, the classics "I Got Lost in His Arms," "Fools Fall in Love" and "How Deep Is the Ocean (How High Is the Sky)" are haunting and ethereal -- much like Manhattan herself.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer