Covering the first five years of Mel Tormé's solo career (from 1944 to 1949), The Velvet Fog features 25 tracks of the vocalist at his dreamiest and most reminiscent of dreaded nicknames like the one found in the title and "The Singer with Gauze in His Jaws." The collection begins with his biggest hit of the era (1949's "Careless Hands"), then cycles through the best of his Capitol recordings in what is roughly chronological order. The seven tracks in which Tormé leads his superb vocal group, the Mel-Tones (usually with Artie Shaw & His Orchestra), are among the best here, from the aching ballad "A Stranger in Town" to the wonderful, uptempo harmony numbers "I Got the Sun in the Morning" and "What Is This Thing Called Love?." As for the solo tracks, there's a focus on ballads that may disappoint fans of Tormé's '50s work. Still, whereas many ballad singers of the '40s doing period material sound insufferable today, Tormé's voice is sweet and irresistible on "Until the Real Thing Comes Along," "Gone With the Wind," and "A Foggy Day." Also, a few of the more swinging numbers ("Night and Day," "Little White Lies," the Peggy Lee duet "The Old Master Painter") show him reflecting the bop influence at an early age, scatting for more than 32 bars at a time and setting tracks on fire with an energy that few (if any) vocal artists were capable of before him. For listeners who've been turned off by the many confusing reissues of Tormé's '40s material (often from budget labels with inferior mastering), The Velvet Fog is a perfect collection. However, those who own his Rhino box set, The Mel Tormé Collection, may find some overlap on the first disc.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush