Whether Jeri Southern was a jazz singer or simply a jazz-influenced pop singer has been debated. To be sure, many of her '50s recordings were heavily arranged and devoid of improvisation -- and if you believe that improvisation is a key element of jazz, you have to believe that much of her output was essentially pop. But however you categorize her, Southern was among the finest female singers of her era. This 21-song collection, which came out in 1999, underscores the excellence of her '50s output for Decca. Southern's accompaniment ranges from lush string orchestras to the trio of guitarist Dave Barbour (who was best known for his work with Peggy Lee), and on some selections, she is heard on piano. You could argue that Southern's piano solo on "I Hadn't Anyone Till You" is a jazz solo, but on most of these recordings, pop considerations prevail over jazz considerations. Blessed with a smoky, warm voice, she brings a great deal of charm and vulnerability to "The Very Thought of You," "My Ship," "I Remember You" and other standards. It's such a shame that Southern chose to retire from recording and performing in the early '60s, when she was only 36 -- quite possibly, she could have continued to record first-class pop for another 20 or 25 years. But thankfully, listeners still have fine collections like The Very Thought of You to savor.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson