Mel Tormé

The Essentials

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For every volume in a budget-collection series that effectively compiles 10 or 12 of an artist's best-known songs, there are several that fail miserably -- whether because they make a mockery of the notion of "greatest hits" or because an artist is far too valuable to constrain to a dozen songs. Mel Tormé's edition in The Essentials series from Warner Strategic Markets fails not because of a lack of great music -- nearly everything Tormé recorded is very good at worst -- but because the material Warner owns comes from two radically different periods in his career. The first three songs here are dreamy mid-'40s selections from Tormé with his excellent vocal group the Mel-Tones; the final track is the novelty "Comin' Home Baby," his early-'60s fluke pop hit. Between these two periods lies the bulk of Tormé's artistic career, but little of it appears here. Barring a few more solid '40s performances, and several excellent sides from his 1963 Songs of New York LP for Atlantic, The Essentials has little of worth to the interested beginners who would buy this type of collection.

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