Bing Crosby

Through the Years, Vol. 6: 1953–1954

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British reissue label Sepia Records' series of albums chronicling Bing Crosby's commercial recordings reaches its sixth volume here (that's after it picked up from Jonzo Records' 51-volume series The Chronological Bing Crosby), presenting 29 tracks recorded between December 1953 and April 1954. By this point, the 50-year-old Crosby, the most commercially successful recording artist of the first half of the 20th century, had subsided as a presence on the Hit Parade, although he could still sell LPs. That he had been bypassed by younger crooners like Perry Como and Eddie Fisher in the singles sweepstakes did not keep him from trying, however. This collection contains numerous examples -- "Secret Love," "Stranger in Paradise" from Kismet, "No Other Love" from Me and Juliet, "Young at Heart" -- of Crosby presenting his versions of some of the most popular songs of the period, even if the hit renditions were by others. He's also paired with younger partners, cutting jocular singles with Donald O'Connor and his own son Gary Crosby. But his two big projects of the period in terms of records (he also continued with his radio show, acted in films, and began to make TV specials) were albums, and they both sold well. Three tracks here -- "White Christmas," "Snow," and "The Old Man/Gee I Wish I Was Back in the Army" -- are studio recordings of songs featured in his upcoming movie musical White Christmas. Crosby was co-starred with Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Trudy Stevens in the picture, but Clooney was contracted to Columbia Records and could not appear with the others on the Decca Records soundtrack. So, Peggy Lee replaces her on the first two tracks, the third being a duet between Crosby and Kaye. White Christmas would go on to be the highest-grossing film released in 1954, and the "soundtrack" album hit number two. Also successful was the five-LP set Bing (A Musical Autobiography), which combined vintage recordings with new versions of some old Crosby hits that had been recorded originally for a different record label, accompanied by his spoken commentary; it got into the Top Ten. This massive project will no doubt take up much of the next volume in the Sepia series, but the first nine re-recordings are here, and they are charming, even if the story is incomplete.

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