Paul Robeson / Elisabeth Welch

Songs from Their Films

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The answer to the obvious question "Who is Elisabeth Welch?" is -- an expatriate African-American actress and singer based in England since 1933. As such, she was an ideal screen and musical partner for Paul Robeson, who made a series of recordings and films in the U.K. in the 1930s. Their association began with a studio recording of "I Still Suits Me," a song Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote for the second movie version of Show Boat, and continued with co-starring roles in Song of Freedom (1936) and Big Fella (1937). As such, this 78-and-a-half-minute, 30-song compilation of Robeson's film music is able to include two duets between the two (the other one is "Sleepy River" from Song of Freedom) and six solo performances by Welch. She is good both as a partner and as a solo singer, but the real focus here is on Robeson, heard on 22 tracks, including "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" from Show Boat, which also features Helen Morgan, Irene Dunne, and Hattie McDaniel. (McDaniel also duets with Robeson on the soundtrack version of "I Still Suits Me," which is why she rates a sub-billing on the disc.) He also sings with Esme Perry on "Stepping Stones" from Song of Freedom. This is not always the best material Robeson has been given to sing, but he is typically impressive, and while the album does not contain all of his movie music, it comes close. The tracks, transferred from 78s, have been cleaned up using the CEDAR process, so the sound is good, given the vintage.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:43
2 1:48
3 1:45
4 2:56
5 3:05
6 4:55
7 4:48
8 4:00
10 3:14
14 2:09
15 0:49
18 2:59
20 1:43
21 3:08
22 3:22
23 2:46
24 2:54
25 1:37
26 2:15
27 0:46
28 2:24
29 2:21
30 1:47
blue highlight denotes track pick