Various Artists

The Great American Composers: Harry Warren

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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann

The Harry Warren volume in Columbia House's series The Great American Composers is one of its best collections. Warren rivaled the great Broadway songwriters of the 1930s and '40s, but got less attention since he wrote for Hollywood. The Columbia House compilations tend to focus on '50s and '60s pop recordings of classic songs written decades earlier, but this one devotes an entire disc to recordings of Warren songs that were contemporary to the time they were written, some of them performed by the people who introduced them in the movies and/or recorded hit versions. For example, Dick Powell, who acted in many of the Warner Bros. musicals of the 1930s that Warren wrote with his partner Al Dubin, is heard singing five songs, among them "We're in the Money (The Gold Diggers Song)," and the Boswell Sisters do "Coffee in the Morning (And Kisses in the Night)," which they sang in Moulin Rouge, in what became the hit recording. The second disc is filled with later recordings by Columbia's roster of '50s stars, but in some cases even these songs are connected to films, such as Doris Day's revival of "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me," which she sang in Lullaby of Broadway, and her renditions of the vintage "I'll String Along with You" and the newly written "My Dream Is Yours," both of which she sang in My Dream Is Yours, a remake of 20 Million Sweethearts, an earlier Warren film. The collection is far from perfect. Even when the recordings are contemporary to their composition, the versions aren't always impressive, and some of the later performers, including the Norman Luboff Choir and George Maharis, aren't, either. There are also some important omissions of Warren hits. Annotator Roy Hemming explains that "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" is on the Johnny Mercer volume, but not this one (he wrote the lyrics), but there is no explanation for why "I Found a Million-Dollar Baby (In a Five-And-Ten-Cent Store)" (for which Columbia owns a hit recording by the Boswell Sisters) and "Chattanooga Choo Choo" are not here. Nevertheless, the album is well-organized and gives a much better sense of the material as written than do many of Columbia House's Composers albums.