1943, the second full year of World War II for the U.S., and the first full year of the recording ban called by the musicians union (though Decca Records settled with the union by the fall), was an odd time in American popular music, one in which vintage recordings were re-released for hits and in which new recordings were made a cappella to circumvent the ban. It was also the year of Frank Sinatra's emergence as a popular solo star after his stints with bandleaders Harry James and Tommy Dorsey (whose recordings with him were reissued for hits). Time-Life's 24-track compilation of recordings from 1943, culled from Decca, RCA Victor, and Columbia Records, is less satisfying than some of the others in the Your Hit Parade series, containing only 16 of the most popular songs of the year, 15 of them in their most popular recordings. To get around the recording difficulties, the compilers have snuck in songs that actually peaked in late 1942 ("When the Lights Go on Again [All Over the World]," by Vaughn Monroe and "Juke Box Saturday Night," by Glenn Miller) or early 1944 (the reissued 1938 recording of "Boogie Woogie," by Tommy Dorsey). And they have included several songs featured in Hollywood movies or by Hollywood stars, that were not hit parade entries ("I'm Old Fashioned," by Fred Astaire, "Stormy Weather," by Lena Horne, and "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart," by Judy Garland). In addition, they have used a recording of "As Time Goes By," which became a hit following its use in Casablanca, in a recording by Dooley Wilson, who sang it in the film. Of course, several of these are memorable songs from the era if not actually hits, and they serve to give variety to an album that, if it stuck strictly to the hits, would have been dominated by a few names. When one examines the top hits of the year not included, people like Sinatra, Dick Haymes, Bing Crosby, and Harry James come up, but each of these already has other, more popular selections on the album. (In fact, Crosby, the year's most successful recording artist, already has three -- "Sunday, Monday or Always," "People Will Say We're in Love," and "Moonlight Becomes You.") Sinatra, however, is underrepresented, with only his and Dorsey's "In the Blue of the Evening" included, and one assumes this is because his Columbia recordings were unavailable for use. Thus, Your Hit Parade: 1943 cannot be called a complete success, though anyone who remembers hits like Harry James' "I've Heard That Song Before," the Mills Brothers' "Paper Doll," and Dick Haymes' "You'll Never Know" will be transported back to that wartime year, and younger listeners will get a good sense of what it was like.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann