Gene Autry

Singing Cowboy, Chapter One

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The idea behind this 28-minute collection was OK -- collect the movie versions of some of Autry's most beloved songs for CD release. Included is his abbreviated rendition of Bob Nolan's "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and the title track from Guns and Guitars, and the soundtrack versions of "Ride, Ranger, Ride," "Melody Ranch," "Down Mexico Way," "Sioux City Sue," and "Ghost Riders in the Sky." These are interesting, but only for the true fanatic -- several of the songs have sound effects and even dialogue over their performances, and the fidelity is rather restricted, as the masters are mostly derived from optical film sources (magnetic sound being a rarity on low-budget movies of that era). The audio is compressed and overloaded, as well as noisy, so seriously that not even Autry's voice can really survive intact, with the result that the packaging is distinctly prettier than the sound. Additionally, while it might have worked well in cinematic terms, the mixing of Autry's voice with choruses, as on "Melody Ranch," is disastrous as a pure audio production. The postwar stuff is far superior to the prewar material, and "Ghost Riders in the Sky" almost works as a full-blown production.

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