Dinah Washington

Stairway to the Stars [Prism]

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In Europe, where there is a 50-year copyright limit on recordings, anyone who wants to can assemble albums of tracks by veteran artists and release them without getting permission, paying to license them, or even using the original masters. (And though nominally available only in Europe, the albums somehow make their way across the Atlantic without much trouble.) As the calendar revolves, more and more recordings come into the public domain, and British budget-reissue label Prism Leisure's 2000 release Stairway to the Stars compiles recordings made by Dinah Washington from 1946 up to the copyright-limit year of 1949. These recordings, originally released on such labels as Decca and Mercury, find Washington, then in her early to mid-twenties, singing with Lionel Hampton (the 1946 R&B hit "Blow-Top Blues") and on her own in recordings supervised by Mitch Miller (the R&B hits "Ain't Misbehavin'," "It's Too Soon to Know," "Baby Get Lost," and "Long John Blues"). Many of the tracks feature lengthy instrumental jazz interludes, though Washington herself always remains more of an R&B/blues singer than a jazz singer. The sound is muffled, as might be expected of an album drawn from dubious sources; the song selection and sequencing seem random; and the annotations are sparse, also familiar characteristics of such releases. But the collection runs over 70 minutes, and it should be available at a discount price. (Don't pay any more than that for it, however.)

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:35
2 2:44
3 2:57
4 2:44
5 2:32
6
feat: Gus Chappell
2:51
7 2:44
8 3:07
9 2:55
10 2:37
11 3:05
12 2:57
13 2:50
14 2:28
15 2:37
16 2:50
17 2:40
18 3:08
19 2:34
20 3:05
21 3:02
22 2:53
23 2:50
24 3:19
25 2:55
blue highlight denotes track pick