The title The Definitive Collection gives an album a lot to live up to, especially when it refers to a recording artist as popular and prolific as Bing Crosby. Music & Memories' two-disc, 44-track, two-hour-and-12-minute compilation is yet another in the endless series of albums assembled by little-known record companies taking advantage of the 50-year copyright limit on recordings in Europe. These tracks, originally released by Sony Music-owned Brunswick Records and Universal Music-owned Decca Records between 1931 and 1946, are still claimed by those companies in the U.S., but that doesn't prevent a little company in Cornwall, England, from mastering a batch of old 78s and manufacturing an album like this. As the title implies, it features some of Crosby's best-known recordings. Twenty-four of the 38 records that chart researcher Joel Whitburn lists as number one hits for the crooner in his book Pop Memories are included. The missing cuts are mostly from the 1930s when, to be fair, record sales were depressed, or after the 1946 cutoff date for this 1996 album. The other 20 tracks were mostly hits, too. The randomly sequenced selections give a good sense of Crosby's eclecticism, ranging across country & western, Hawaiian, seasonal, theater, and film songs, with occasional guest appearances from Les Paul, the Andrews Sisters, Woody Herman's Woodchoppers, Jimmy Dorsey, Johnny Mercer, and Xavier Cugat. Throughout, Crosby negotiates the lyrics of Mercer, Sammy Cahn, Cole Porter, Johnny Burke, Mack Gordon, Oscar Hammerstein II, Irving Berlin, Lorenz Hart, Leo Robin, and E.Y. Harburg capably, while bringing out the best in the melodies of Mercer, Porter, Berlin, Jule Styne, Jimmy Van Heusen, James Monaco, Harry Warren, Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Richard Whiting, Sammy Fain, Ralph Rainger, and Harold Arlen. Sound quality varies, as you'd expect from the source material. Definitive? No, but not a bad collection.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann