Distinct from Columbia's Essential Fred Astaire volume of three years earlier, The Great American Songbook mostly deals with Astaire's earliest (and best) recordings, performances from the early to mid-'30s when he was the premiere interpreter of Broadway's best songwriters -- Gershwin, Berlin, Porter, and Kern. Always debonair and relaxed onscreen, he was no different in his audio incarnation, but he was also exquisitely attentive to the many delightful intricacies of century-best songs like "Night and Day," "A Fine Romance," and "Let's Face the Music and Dance." Due to the consolidation of Sony (owner of Columbia) and BMG (owner of Verve), the program ends with three titles from his latter-day period, including a string-laden "Something's Gotta Give" from 1955. Though there are only 16 tracks included, two are billed as alternate takes ("A Fine Romance," "They Can't Take That Away from Me").
AllMusic Review by John Bush