The Definitive Collection devoted to Louis Armstrong takes a reverse chronological view of the pop giant's career, a format that functions surprisingly well considering its intended purpose. Beginning with his last major performance, 1967's "What a Wonderful World," the disc takes listeners on a 75-minute tour that pays closest attention to his pop and vocal landmarks of the '50s and '60s with his All-Stars group, but also reaches back to 1938 to pick up the best moments of his excellent big band. (That leaves, of course, his seminal Hot Five sides out in the cold, to be picked up elsewhere.) Also briefly surveyed are his multi-album collaboration with Ella Fitzgerald, his lush "Louis with strings" albums arranged by Russ Garcia, his hit duet with Bing Crosby on "Gone Fishin'," and the series of songs ("Blueberry Hill," "Mack the Knife") that lengthened his sheet to include not only Jazz Age hero and swing progenitor, but also postwar pop stalwart. Clearly, the career of Louis Armstrong the jazz artist can't be covered thoroughly with anything but a box set that selects material from his entire working life, but as an overview of Louis Armstrong the pop singer, The Definitive Collection is peerless. One caveat: Armstrong's best latter-day pop song, "We Have All the Time in the World" (from the 1969 James Bond vehicle On Her Majesty's Secret Service), is sadly missing in action.
The Definitive Collection Review
by John Bush