British reissue label Sepia Records' Through the Years series, presenting the commercial recordings of Bing Crosby in chronological order by recording date (which has taken over from Jonzo Records' The Chronological Bing Crosby series), reaches its fifth volume with this disc, covering the bulk of 1953. Crosby turned 50 years old that year (though he thought he was 49), and he marked that milestone by publishing his best-selling autobiography, Call Me Lucky, and talking of retirement. Notwithstanding that unrealized threat, he maintained his usual schedule, which included hosting his weekly radio show, making movies (Little Boy Lost, White Christmas, The Country Girl), and making records. The last, however, was becoming a less primary concern. While he remained a star in radio (although the medium itself was quickly deteriorating in popularity) and in the movies (ranking fourth in box-office success for the year), he had dropped precipitously as a record seller, actually not scoring a Billboard chart single at all during the calendar year. This was not because of a change in musical tastes, as the ascendency of Perry Como, a Crosby sound-alike, to the top of the list of pop recording artists proved. But making records just wasn't a Crosby priority any more. Among the 28 selections heard here are a couple of country-flavored singles; a duet single with his son Gary Crosby; a few songs from the Little Boy Lost soundtrack; and the complete contents of two 10" LPs, Le Bing: Song Hits of Paris and Some Fine Old Chestnuts. The former, Crosby's first 33-1/3 rpm LP to be recorded as such, was cut in Paris and consisted of eight songs sung in French, including the Edith Piaf standard "La Vie en Rose" and "La Mer," later known as "Beyond the Sea" when it was given an English lyric. Crosby was a competent singer in French, though he certainly wouldn't fool a native speaker. The eight songs making up Some Fine Old Chestnuts are vintage pop standards like "Dinah" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," which Crosby sang over only a piano trio accompaniment. This LP reflects the reduced significance of recording to the singer. Now that he was pre-recording his radio show instead of appearing on the air live, he took to excerpting transcribed performances from the program and simply offering them to his label, Decca Records, to be mastered as discs, and Some Fine Old Chestnuts was a release of such recycled material. (This makes the recording dates vague; the dates sometimes refer to the days on which the tracks were mastered as records, not to when Crosby actually sang the songs.) Nevertheless, the actual performances are comfortable and confident, as the singer takes a slightly jazzy approach to the familiar material. But for the Bing Crosby of 1953, making records had become, at best, a part-time pursuit, and something of an afterthought, rather than a primary element of his career.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Gary Crosby
feat: Gary Crosby