Coming along halfway through the swing era, Charlie Spivak's big band managed to rank among the top ten orchestras of the early '40s. That Spivak never broke into the top five, occupied by the likes of Glenn Miller, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Harry James, and Benny Goodman, had to do with timing -- all of them had preceded him -- but also with his musical approach. Spivak got his shot at leading an orchestra because he was so respected as a hot trumpeter, but when he organized a band he usually stuck a mute in his horn and aimed for a smooth style not unlike the sound of Tommy Dorsey's trombone. Indeed, he seemed to pattern his band on that of the younger Dorsey, similarly attempting to straddle the hot and sweet strains of swing. When he did play his trumpet open, he reminded a lot of listeners of James (though some found his tone purer). As a result, his legacy has been compromised, and there have been few compilations of his original studio recordings. Collectables Records redresses this wrong with its 24-track, 77-minute collection of Spivak's earliest recordings, made for Columbia and its OKeh subsidiary between the start of 1941 and the onset of the first recording ban in August 1942. All of the band's chart hits from that period, with the exception of its cover of "White Christmas," have been included. Spivak's trumpet playing is the attraction on such instrumentals as "What's Cookin'" and vocal numbers like "Don't Take Your Love From Me." The Tommy Dorsey sound is very apparent on "I Understand" and the hit "Intermezzo (A Love Story)," while James is recalled on "At Last" and "Autumn Nocturne." Throughout, the band plays sturdy, familiar swing music that remains just a little too much like that of its betters.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann