The 34th volume in The Chronological Bing Crosby, a series created by Crosby-loving record collectors for their brethren, finds the 20th century's top crooner at the top of his game. The album, which presents 17 different songs, along with five alternate takes and an aircheck, covers an unusually long period in Crosby's recording career, because it spans the recording ban called by the musicians' union on August 1, 1942, a ban that prevented instrumentalists from entering recording studios for more than a year (at least as far as Decca, Crosby's record company, was concerned). So, there are a couple of pre-ban sessions in the summer of 1942, then a couple of a cappella sessions in the summer of 1943 (Crosby is accompanied by the Ken Darby Singers and the Sportsmen Glee Club), then, after the ban, a batch of recordings in the early fall of 1943. With the tracks heard here, Crosby reclaimed his crown as the top recording artist in the U.S., snatching it back from the swing big band leaders who had held sway in recent years. He released five two-sided singles in 1943, and they resulted in nine chart entries, including seven Top Ten hits and (unofficially) three gold records. There were his specially written movie songs, "Moonlight Becomes You" and "Constantly" from Road to Morocco, and "Sunday, Monday or Always" and "If You Please" from Dixie; "People Will Say We're in Love" and "Oh! What a Beautiful Mornin'" from the hit musical Oklahoma! (performed as duets with his radio co-star Trudy Erwin); double billings with the Andrews Sisters on "Pistol Packin' Mama" and "Vict'ry Polka"; and the seasonal "I'll Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams)." (The album also includes "Poinciana [Song of the Tree]," which hit Number Three as the B-side of "San Fernando Valley" in March 1944.) So, the collection is dominated by hits and standards. But the alternate takes, including a blown version of "Jingle Bells" (another million-seller in its release take), are interesting to hear, and the aircheck, a reunion of Crosby's 1920s vocal group the Rhythm Boys that, technically, shouldn't be part of the series, is nevertheless welcome. Even for more casual Crosby fans, Vol. 34 is one of the stronger entries in this series.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Rhythm Boys
feat: Trudy Erwin
feat: Trudy Erwin