Songs That Made the Phone Light Up is another in the 32Jazz series of mood compilations it has been issuing since Joel Dorn established the label in 1995. This album is based on a period in Dorn's career when he worked at Philadelphia radio station, WHAT FM (1961-1967). Dorn states that the tunes on this album were vocal favorites of the station's listening audience based on phone calls to the station. The musical tastes of these 100,000 Philly residents who regularly tuned in were diverse and different, to say the least. They liked "Over the Rainbow" by Austin Cromer with Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band. Cromer, a Billy Eckstine sound alike, was one of several big voiced baritones holding down the male vocalist chair in Dizzy's band between Earl Coleman and Johnny Hartman. Another WHAT audience preference was Dinah Washington's rendition of "Look to the Rainbow" from Finian's Rainbow, which was sung by Petula Clark no less, in the film version of this Broadway musical. Not a song one usually associates with the Queen of the Blues. Vocalese is represented by King Pleasure's 1962 cut of "It Might as Well Be Spring," backed by a string orchestra. Jesse Belvin, who died much too young, contributes a soul laden "Imagination. Apparently the WHAT audience had an affinity for strings, as this track is one of several which bursts with violins. This cut also features excellent muted trumpet playing. Although the liner notes don't identify anyone but featured musicians, other sources reveal that the trumpet belongs to long time West Coast jazz musician, Jack Sheldon. Consistent with the eclectic play list, Lorez Alexandria does an exotic rendering of Hoagy Carmichael's "Baltimore Oriole." All that's missing is the sound of jungle birds. There's Oscar Brown, Jr.'s irreverent and demanding "Forty Acres and a Mule," as well as a riotously funny "Gimmie That Wine" by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, again a tune one wouldn't think would be in this vocal group's repertoire. More familiar material includes the Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley collaboration on "Save Your Love for Me" and Joe Williams' "A Man Ain't Supposed to Cry." As Dorn points out in the liner notes, none of these tunes reached very high on the charts, if they made the charts at all. Nonetheless, significant talent has been captured on this album which should make it attractive to a broader spectrum of jazz fans beyond WHAT's audience of the '60s.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan