The 27th volume of British reissue label Jonzo's series The Chronological Bing Crosby, which consists of CD transfers of records originally issued by Decca Records and now in the public domain in the U.K., picks up the history of Crosby's commercial recordings at the start of 1940 and features the 20 songs (with three alternate takes) cut in six sessions in just under five months from February to July. Crosby, then the top solo singer in the U.S., one of the ten top box-office stars, and a successful radio host, continued to record his usual mixture of new songs from his motion pictures, Western and Hawaiian favorites, and oldies. He was particularly successful with the Western and Hawaiian numbers, scoring major hits with "The Singing Hills," "Sierra Sue," and "Trade Winds" from this batch of recordings. Such songs may be only vaguely familiar to non-Crosby fans 62 years later (if any chance to hear this disc, that is), but they will certainly recognize the versions of the Stephen Foster standards "Beautiful Dreamer" and "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair" (aka "I Dream of Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair"), and they will delight in the verbal jousting between Crosby and Johnny Mercer on the latter's composition, "Mister Meadowlark." "Meet the Sun Halfway," "April Played the Fiddle," "I Haven't Time to Be a Millionaire," and "The Pessimistic Character" were all written for Crosby by his personal songwriting team of Johnny Burke (lyrics) and James Monaco (music) for the film If I Had My Way, and the first three enjoyed some chart action. Yet the greatest appeal to this collection lies not in the material, but in Crosby's winning performances. Even the rejected takes, in which someone makes a mistake, are interesting, with their comic asides and improvised (and sometimes vulgar) lyrics.
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