Various Artists

The Top Ten Collection: The Late '40s

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Reader's Digest Music Editor Gary Theroux sets out the criteria for this four-CD/cassette set in an introductory note in its booklet: "This collection showcases the ten biggest original hit recordings of each year from 1945 to 1949 -- along with sample songs from the Top Ten male vocal stars, Top Ten female vocal stars and Top Ten big bands of the era." Following the outline, the set is divided into eight parts corresponding to the sides of the cassettes, ten tracks each cited as "The Top Ten Hits of" the five years, followed by sides devoted to the Top Ten bands, "Guys," and "Girls." The compilers have mostly avoided including two hits by the same artist in the same year, and -- as all anthologists are -- have been hobbled by licensing and contractual restrictions, the most serious omission being Frank Sinatra. In "The Top Ten Guys" section, they have cheated by including his 1942 RCA Victor recording of "Night and Day," but Sinatra hits like "Five Minutes More" are simply missing; there are also a few song omissions that are just inexplicable. What is here is a good cross-section of the most popular music of the late 1940s. The most successful recording artist of the period, Bing Crosby, has five selections; Perry Como has six, and bandleader Sammy Kaye has four. The combination of greatest hits and greatest artists allows for the inclusion of several important performers -- Count Basie, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Jo Stafford, Patti Page, Judy Garland -- who affected the era but had their greatest success a little earlier or a little later. And, finally, while some of the biggest hits of the half-decade are not here, most are, and usually in the most popular original recordings. The late 1940s was a transitional period that saw the decline of the big bands and swing music, and the ascension of solo singers, novelty songs, and more regional material, especially country music. This set traces those developments well, and includes much of the best as well as the most popular music of the era.