Various Artists

The Fabulous Fifties: Romantic Moments

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The Fabulous Fifties: Romantic Moments is the fourth disc in a four-CD box set that is itself the first of two sets making up a total of eight CDs surveying the non-rock popular music of the 1950s. (Just to be confusing, there is also a nine-CD version of the package, divided into three triple-CD sets.) Assembled by Time-Life Music's Heartland Music division with manufacturing by Universal Music Special Markets, the 15-track album, running under 40 minutes, is typical of Time-Life's approach to compilations. Containing music originally released between 1950-1958, it is heavy on hits (though not as hit-laden as its predecessors): 14 tracks were Billboard Top Tens, with six hitting number one. (The exception is the McGuire Sisters' non-hit recording of "Teach Me Tonight.") The songs have been licensed primarily from Universal Music, with one track each from Sony, BMG, and the independent Cadence label. That is one advantage to Time-Life collections -- they are not limited to a single label. Another is sound quality; drawn from the original masters, the tracks sound great. The disadvantages of the Time-Life style are also apparent, however. Despite brief liner notes from Joseph Lanza that provide two or three sentences on each track, there isn't much scholarship evident. To the listener, this is just a miscellaneous bunch of tracks, seemingly sequenced in any old order. (The subtitle "Romantic Moments" is meaningless.) And, of course, 40 minutes isn't very long for a CD. At release, Time-Life was selling the whole package on its website (www.timelife.com) -- with a bonus disc bringing the nine-disc version up to ten -- for about 120 dollars, not counting shipping and handling or sales tax. That's not really a bargain, but for the nostalgic fan of '50s pop, this album and its partners deliver hit after hit.