This single disc contains the second in a series of four two-fers aimed at restoring the late-'50s and early-'60s Roulette Records catalog of Jimmie F. Rodgers. Although these reissues are not compiled by strict chronology, the two titles on this CD are, in fact, his second and third LPs -- The Number One Ballads and TV Favorites, respectively. By the time these records hit store shelves (circa late 1958 and early 1959), Rodgers had become a nationally known performer via his dozen (and counting) Top 40 singles as well as his weekly syndicated half-hour music and variety television program. Although the idea may seem antiquated, many A-list entertainers in the late '50s covered hits by other top performers of the same era. Thematically, both The Number One Ballads and TV Favorites each include a dozen previous chart-toppers and signature songs for other artists. As was the trend at the time and owing to the demands of his weekly music/variety show, Rodgers performed a wide assortment of pop standards ("Love Letters in the Sand" and "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home") in addition to his own hits during the weekly broadcast. His choice of cover tunes was not, however, limited to only concurrently popular music. Also among the highlights are cinematic ("Three Coins in a Fountain") as well as Broadway ("Summertime") favorites. The popularity of Rodgers' renditions are evidenced by the inclusion of not one, but two entirely unique arrangements of "Hey There" -- originally written for the musical The Pajama Game. Whereas the "1958 version," featured on The Number One Ballads, is more akin to the original, the "1959 version," from TV Favorites, is dressed up a bit with brass and strings. Both readings are exceptional and ultimately a testament to Rodgers' interpretive abilities. Arguably, though, it is the traditional "Greensleeves" and "St. James Infirmary" that exude a virtually palpable timelessness. They fit as comfortably on these LPs as they would have on the folk-themed albums that directly preceded and followed the two titles featured here. It should be noted that these tracks are not the live broadcast versions, but rather studio renderings of songs that Rodgers featured on his TV show. Also worthy of mention are the opulent sonics accompanying this release. According to the information found on the rear tray card, the U.K.-based Westside Records accessed the original quarter-inch tapes for digital remastering. The results are far and away better than one might expect for recordings over four decades old.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer