Various Artists

Sirens of Swing: Great Songs of the 30's & 40's - 2 Disc Set

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With a running time only slightly over two hours, this budget-priced, four-CD box set from Canada easily could have fit onto two discs. There are no annotations beyond recording dates, and the mastering was done from records. (Presumably the copyright on these recordings has run out north of the border.) Also, the title is slightly misleading: only three of the 40 tracks date from the 1930s. That's all the bad news. The good news is that this is a thorough sampler of distaff vocals from (primarily) the '40s, including the expected -- the Andrews Sisters, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore, Jo Stafford, and Sarah Vaughan, each of whom gets two tracks -- but also 22 other performers, among them lesser-known women who acquit themselves well, and legends of stage and screen like Pearl Bailey, Janet Blair, Alice Faye, Betty Grable, Dorothy Lamour, Edith Piaf, Jane Russell, and Ethel Waters. The selections often include songs for which these singers scored the biggest hit versions, and if not, many were at least the most popular female-sung versions. And even if the singers didn't score big hits with these songs, in some cases the tunes became signature songs long associated with them. There are a few surprising match-ups of singer to song; all in all, however, these 40 selections provide a comprehensive view of the female singers of the World War II era. Just be sure the bulk of the box doesn't fool you and that you don't pay too high a price.

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