This British compilation album consists of digital transfers of 78 rpm singles originally released by Decca and RCA Victor (which continues to claim copyright for them in the U.S.) by an Australian named Robert Parker. The tracks have been processed into what are referred to as "stereo recreations," whatever that may mean. Certainly, it sounds like certain sounds have been enhanced at the expense of others, though the result is hardly true stereo. The term "classic hits" in the subtitle is meaningless; four of these tracks did feature in the charts, at least according to Joel Whitburn's book Pop Memories, but the selection is an apparently random choice of Louis Armstrong recordings made between 1936 and 1950. (The seemingly arbitrary cutoff date is necessitated by the 50-year European copyright limitation.) Sequenced chronologically except for the opening track, "Swing That Music," which was cut three months after the second track, "Rhythm Saved the World," the album traces Armstrong's movement from frontman for Luis Russell's swing orchestra (tracks one through 15) to his leadership of smaller units, culminating in the emergence of his All-Stars in 1947 ("Jack-Armstrong Blues," "Rockin' Chair") and even his later period as recording artist-for-hire ("Blueberry Hill" with Gordon Jenkins' Orchestra and Choir). There are some terrific performances here (of course, you can say that about any Armstrong album), and the sidemen include Jimmy Dorsey, J.C. Higginbotham, Sidney Catlett, Sidney Bechet, Wellman Braud, Zutty Singleton, Kid Ory, Barney Bigard, Jack Teagarden, Bobby Hackett, Billy Butterfield, and Earl Hines. But as Armstrong compilations go, this one is still basically a miscellany, apparently consisting of the records Robert Parker happened to have in his collection. Such are the results of the public domain, in which anyone with the means can press up a disc.
Swing Legends: 24 Classic Hits, 1936-1950
Swing Legends: 24 Classic Hits, 1936-1950 Review
by William Ruhlmann