During the four-month period in 1936 covered by the 18th volume of Jonzo Records' The Chronological Bing Crosby series, Crosby was arguably the biggest movie star and the biggest recording artist in the U.S. The album's 16 songs (in 23 tracks, including alternate takes) basically break down into four groups. First, there is a four-song session held on March 29 with the Victor Young Orchestra at which Crosby recorded two songs from Porgy and Bess, "I Got Plenty of Nuttin'" and "It Ain't Necessarily So," his first performances of George Gershwin material on record. Second are the sessions of July 14 and 17 at which he recorded five songs from Rhythm on the Range, the Western he was then filming, most prominent among them Johnny Mercer's "I'm an Old Cowhand." At these sessions, he was accompanied for the first time on record by Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra, the band that was backing him on his Kraft Music Hall radio show. Third was a July 23 session at which Crosby recorded his first Hawaiian songs, "Song of the Islands" (a modest hit) and "Aloha Oe." Finally, there were the sessions of July 24 and 29, at which Crosby recorded four songs from his next film, Pennies From Heaven. These tracks, all of which reached the charts, with the title song becoming the longest running number one hit of the year, were notable for marking the beginning of Crosby's association with lyricist Johnny Burke, who would be the singer's personal lyricist for the next 15 years. Thus, this is an album made by a performer at the peak of his fame and his abilities, still exploring new avenues and, with "I'm an Old Cowhand" and "Pennies From Heaven," creating two timeless classics.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann