Musical theater historian Jack Raymond's Ultimate series of compilations on songwriters for British archival label Pearl Records observes strict rules, including only recordings made by original cast members from the works in which the songs were introduced. The recordings do not have to have been contemporary (Ethel Merman's waxing of "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" occurred 13 years after she first sang it on-stage in Anything Goes), and the performers do not have to have performed the specific songs in the musicals or films (Frances Langford did not sing "Rap Tap on Wood," "I've Got You Under My Skin," or "Easy to Love" in Born to Dance, as she does here); they just have to have been in the casts. During the 1934-1936 period treated here, the release of original cast and soundtrack recordings was unusual in the U.S., although the principals sometimes might make studio recordings of their show tunes, such as Merman's of "You're the Top" and "I Get a Kick out of You" from Anything Goes for Brunswick in 1934. But if that didn't happen, that's just too bad -- nothing gets included. In this case, Cole Porter had a 1935 show called Jubilee that featured the songs "Begin the Beguine," "Just One of Those Things," and "Why Shouldn't I." There were popular contemporary recordings of these songs by dance bands, but none by cast members, so these standards are simply left off this collection (and not mentioned), which throws into question the Ultimate tag in the title. On the other hand, the British often made cast recordings, and there are six here from the London version of Anything Goes, including an alternate "You're the Top" that confirms long-standing (and long-denied) rumors about the inclusion of a certain fascist dictator in its list of superlatives. "You're Mussolini!," proclaims Jeanne Aubert.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann