Various Artists

The History of Pop Radio, Vol. 6: 1939 [OSA/Radio History]

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The sixth volume of The History of Pop Radio, the German History label's 15-CD survey of the years 1920 to 1951, is devoted solely to the year 1939. Where earlier volumes mixed a selection of major hits with standards and other notable recordings, this one is largely devoted to obscure songs and performers. It is not entirely devoid of hits, containing the biggest record of 1939, "Deep Purple" by Larry Clinton & His Orchestra (here credited to singer Bea Wain, though there is no vocal and it actually sounds like Paul Weston's 1949 instrumental version), and the biggest record of 1940, "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller & His Orchestra (which was released in late 1939), as well as the Top Ten hits "Moonlight Serenade" (by Miller) and "God Bless America" (by Kate Smith). There are also songs that were hits, though not in the versions heard here: "The Umbrella Man," "And the Angels Sing," "A Man and His Dream," "Two Sleepy People," "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," "The Masquerade Is Over," and "Indian Summer." And there are some interesting performances by notable performers, such as "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" by Paul Robeson and "Wish Me Luck" by Gracie Fields (taken directly from the soundtrack of Shipyard Sally). But the disc is otherwise full of mediocre, virtually unknown artists, many of them singing little-known songs, making for a spotty history of popular music at the end of the 1930s. (Despite the album title, there is no apparent relationship to radio, though doubtless some of these recordings were played on the radio at one time or another.)

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