This European compilation collects 20 studio recordings featuring Fred Astaire and recorded between 1926 and 1940, though all but three date from 1935-1938. The first two are tracks made for the English Columbia label in the 1920s when Astaire (and, on the leadoff song, "Fascinating Rhythm," his sister Adele Astaire) was in London appearing on-stage in the Gershwin musicals Lady, Be Good! and Funny Face. Tracks three through nine, all recorded for Brunswick Records, represent Astaire recordings of songs from his movie musicals with Ginger Rogers. The disc concludes with a recording of "Poor Mr. Chisolm," a song from the 1941 Astaire film Second Chorus originally released on American Columbia Records. The selection is full of standards written by the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, and Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, classic songs that Astaire introduced and which he sings effectively, sometimes accompanying himself with dance steps. This is the sort of recording that would be illegal in the U.S., where copyright on most of the tracks is claimed by Sony; in Europe, they're apparently in the public domain. But the transfers seem to have been made from old 78s, and the sound quality is iffy, with lots of hiss and scratches. And the disc is a bare-bones project, with no annotations beyond song titles and songwriter credits. If encountered at a low price by an Astaire fan who doesn't already have an album containing these recordings, the album might be a reasonable purchase. But there are better reissues of the same material.
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