Although the 50-year copyright limit on recordings in Europe has resulted in many shoddy unlicensed reissues of popular recordings still in print in their legitimate versions, it also allows fans and collectors to assemble and present valuable rare and out of print material that the major labels have buried in their vaults and are likely never to unearth again. A good example is this, British reissue label Sepia Records' Think Pink! A Kay Thompson Party. Thompson (1909-1998) is a legend, even though she was not a star, her many accomplishments including authoring the series of children's books about Eloise, the precocious six-year-old who roams the halls of the Plaza Hotel; coaching Judy Garland and others for their singing in MGM movie musicals of the '40s; and headlining an acclaimed, but little documented nightclub act with the Williams Brothers (including a young Andy Williams) in the late '40s and early '50s. She also made studio recordings sporadically, among them a 1955 LP for MGM Records called Kay Thompson Sings, as well as appearing extensively on radio during its heyday and, occasionally, on TV and in films. Such sources, plus private recordings, have been compiled by Thompson's biographer Sam Irvin for this collection, which, astonishingly, is a three-and-a-half-hour triple-CD set. And, at that, it isn't even complete; it deliberately picks up the Thompson story where an earlier collection, 2003's The Queen of Swing Vocals & Her Rhythm Singers, issued by Baldwin Street Music, left off in the late '30s, then follows her to the end of the '50s. It does so non-chronologically, instead grouping the three discs into themes: CD one is "The Studio Recordings"; CD two "Rarities and Live Performances"; and CD three "Demos, Covers, Comedy, and Eloise." As such, the most conventional Kay Thompson comes at the start, with ten of the 12 tracks from Kay Thompson Sings (the other two are novelties held for the third CD), which make her seem to be a good interpretive traditional pop singer of the '50s in the mold of, say, Peggy Lee. Other tracks culled from singles reinforce this impression until the end of the disc, which contains excerpts from Thompson's one big featured role in a movie musical, 1957's Funny Face, in which she held her own against Fred Astaire. The second disc begins with an attempt to re-create what a nightclub performance by Thompson and the Williams Brothers might have been like, using some of their few recordings and airchecks. As the disc goes on, it moves backwards in time to the late '30s, emphasizing Thompson's abilities as a vocal arranger, then back up to the mid-'40s, with some examples of her work at MGM. The third disc is of course a miscellany, even including songs written by but not featuring Thompson, such as an Ann Miller version of what is here called "Madame Crematante" (although it has also been called "The Interview" and "A Great Lady Has an Interview"), a piece of special material performed by Judy Garland in the 1946 movie Ziegfeld Follies. Thompson's comic acting abilities are on display in airchecks featuring Bing Crosby and Peter Lorre, but nothing prepares the listener for her several performances as Eloise herself toward the end, before the proceedings end with a flurry of holiday music. More than a third of the 75 tracks here are previously unreleased on disc, and even most of the released ones are being retrieved from obscure records. This remarkable collection confirms Thompson's talents as an influential singer, songwriter, and arranger who helped shape 20th century popular music and had a lot of fun doing so, and it should go a long way toward enhancing her reputation.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2
Track Listing - Disc 3