Lena Horne served three separate tours of duty with RCA Victor Records, from 1941 to 1945, from 1955 to 1963, and from 1975 to 1976, making the label the largest repository for her recordings. While RCA has never reissued her work in any comprehensive manner, periodically the label assembles a single-disc compilation, and The Classic Lena Horne, part of its "100 Years of Music" centenary series, is yet another one. For once, terms like "greatest hits" and "best of" are not being used, which is a relief in Horne's case since, as annotator Colin Escott is at pains to point out, she didn't have much in the way of chart hits. Actually, unlike RCA's 2000 Greatest Hits album, this one does have her sole Top 20 hit, "Love Me or Leave Me." Also included is her 1941 recording of "Stormy Weather," made before she sang it in the movie of the same name and it became her signature song. Otherwise, compiler/sequencer Buzz Ravineau has adopted a roughly chronological approach and chosen a couple of other '40s performances ("One for My Baby [And One More for the Road]" and "How Long Has This Been Going On?") to go with various studio recordings made in the '50s and early '60s. Standards like Ira and George Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "I Got Rhythm" are mixed with less-well-known, but nevertheless impressive songs like Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh's "The Rules of the Road." The result is a sampler that is not, and does not claim to be, the best of Lena Horne on RCA, but that is instead a representative sampling of the kind of high-quality work she did for the label.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann