The Victory Collection

Various Artists

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The Victory Collection Review

by Bruce Eder

This three-CD set is a well-conceived and executed collection of songs, spoken-word entertainment, interviews, and newscast transcriptions from 1941 through 1945, devoted to aspects of World War II and what life was like in the United States during the war. The three discs are divided up in broad thematic terms -- the first disc is the most entertaining, a selection of songs that are alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) angry, funny, and sardonic, from the defiant, topical pop/country-based work of Carson Robison (who made a second career out of his morale-boosting, anti-Hitler anti-Japanese repertory) to Jazz Gillum's "Wartime Blues" and "One Letter Home," which tell about the war as perceived by the black community in Chicago. Disc Two is weighted toward softer, more directly sentimental pop sounds, though country music, such as it is, is also represented. Disc Three, really the heart of the collection, is made up of news reports and radio transcriptions of speeches by Franklin Roosevelt, dating between September 3, 1939, when war was declared against Germany by England and France over the invasion of Poland, intercut with the recorded recollections of reporters such as Ben Grauer, celebrities such as Margaret Whiting, and ordinary citizens as well, plus radio programs and some silly-sounding dramatic re-creations. The greatest amount of time and depth is given over to recollections of the Irving Berlin stage musical This Is the Army. This section comes off well, because it segues into a series of short talks by participants about the importance of songs to the G.I., and even the use (seldom talked about today) of American popular songs as a weapon against the morale of German soldiers. This 50-minute disc is heavily indexed, but the index points are not labeled or otherwise identified; the booklet is reasonably informative and well annotated. The collection isn't as strong as it might have been, because the music is limited to RCA's holdings -- on their best boxes, the Smithsonian has the budget to license from numerous labels -- but it's as good as we're likely to see.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Carson Robison 02:41 Amazon
2 Carson Robison 02:53 Amazon
Jazz Gillum 02:41 Amazon
4 Doctor Clayton 03:03 Amazon
5 Carson Robison 02:45 Amazon
6 Wingy Manone & His Orchestra 02:19 Amazon
7 Fats Waller 02:26 Amazon
8 Spike Jones 02:22 Amazon
9 Glenn Miller & the Army Air Force Band 05:10 Amazon
10 Carson Robison 02:48 Amazon
11 Carson Robison 02:43 Amazon
12 Tony Pastor & His Orchestra 02:32 Amazon
13 The Glenn Miller Orchestra 03:04 Amazon
Cliff Nazarro 03:15 Amazon
15 Spike Jones 02:57 Amazon
16 Carson Robison 03:12 Amazon
Jazz Gillum 02:38 Amazon
18 Sonny Boy Williamson II 02:45 Amazon
19 Carson Robison 03:03 Amazon
20 Carson Robison 03:01 Amazon
21 Four Clefs 03:08 Amazon
22 Spike Jones 02:49 Amazon
23 Carson Robison 02:49 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Shep Fields 03:00 Amazon
Sammy Kaye 03:00 Amazon
3 Dinah Shore 02:17 Amazon
4 Xavier Cugat & His Orchestra 03:14 Amazon
5 Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra 03:12 Amazon
6 Four Vagabonds 02:43 Amazon
7 The Glenn Miller Orchestra 03:23 Amazon
8 Four Vagabonds 02:53 Amazon
9 Elton Britt 05:37 Amazon
10 Dinah Shore 03:16 Amazon
11 Freddy Martin & His Orchestra 03:14 Amazon
Four Vagabonds 02:40 Amazon
13 Freddy Martin & His Orchestra 03:21 Amazon
14 Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra 02:49 Amazon
15 The Sons of the Pioneers 02:33 Amazon
Texas Jim Robertson 02:55 Amazon
17 Ethel Merman 03:10 Amazon
18 The Glenn Miller Orchestra 03:07 Amazon
19 Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra 03:05 Amazon
20 Dinah Shore 03:01 Amazon
21 Al Goodman & His Orchestra 04:57 Amazon
22 Kate Smith 02:44 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 3

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
30:00 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick