Harry Secombe

The Very Best of Harry Secombe

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Here are 20 songs that are almost guaranteed to leave the listener -- regardless of their taste -- breathless and delighted. The Very Best of Harry Secombe lives up to its name, an extraordinary collection of Sir Harry Secombe's best secular and religious songs, including his hits "If I Ruled the World" and "This Is My Song" (which was reportedly -- and understandably, once heard -- the second-biggest selling single released in England in all of 1968); the devotional song "Bless This House"; "Abide With Me"; and a brace of popular, theater, operetta, and operatic standards. There's so much good here that finding a high point is almost impossible, though the rendition of the Dvorak-based "Summer Song" would be in contention, as might "I Long to See the Day." This reviewer has not smiled, laughed, and cried as much listening to a CD in many, many years as he did hearing Secombe's rich, lush, magnificently expressive baritone -- the man should have been singing the operettas of Rudolph Friml and Sigmund Romberg, and might've been a rival to the likes of Nelson Eddy had he been born 20 years earlier; one gets a hint of what he might've done in those days from this selection, 20 musical jewels from a 30-year career. The sound quality is good, and the notes convey some measure of Secombe's talents, and the esteem in which he was held, by listeners as different as John Lennon and Prince Charles. Oh, and that voice -- it's easy to understand why he was mourned most deeply upon his death in his native Wales, a nation of singers if ever there was one.

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