1944 was an unusual year in popular music, not only because the U.S. was at war, along with the rest of world, but also because the musicians union recording ban was still going on, sort of. One of the three major record labels, Decca, had settled with the union in 1943, and its artists were back recording; the other two, Columbia and RCA Victor, would not come to terms until late in the year. (Capitol, founded in 1942 just before the ban started, seems to have had some sort of dispensation.) As a result, Decca dominated 1944: eight of the top ten artists of the year were on the label, including the top seller, Bing Crosby, who did twice as well as his nearest competitors, the Andrews Sisters, with whom he sometimes recorded. The 1944 volume in Time-Life Music's Your Hit Parade series reflects Decca's pre-eminence, including 17 Decca tracks among its 24 selections, but not Crosby's, with only three of his tracks, "San Fernando Valley," "I'll Be Seeing You," and the year's biggest hit, "Swinging On A Star," when he actually had eight of the top 24 recordings of the year, according to Billboard. One of them, "Don't Fence Me In," with the Andrews Sisters, came late in the year and is on Your Hit Parade: 1945. But the other Crosby #1s, "(There'll Be A) Hot Time In The Town Of Berlin (When The Yanks Go Marching In)" and "I Love You," are simply missing. And that is a good indication of what this album is like. In fact, only 14 of the 24 most popular songs of the year are featured in their most popular recordings. The other voices to turn up three times are those of Dick Haymes, who is heard singing with Harry James's Orchestra on a 1941 recording of "I'll Get By (As Long As I Have You)" and with Helen Forrest on duets of "It Had To Be You" and "Long Ago (And Far Away)," and Forrest, who also has a solo turn on "Time Waits For No One." The compilers always throw in one or two recordings that, while not the year's biggest hits, have critical standing, but on this volume there are more than usual, including the King Cole Trio's "Straighten Up And Fly Right," Duke Ellington's "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me," and two tracks by Stan Kenton, "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" and "Artistry In Rhythm," the latter having no chart status whatsoever. One can understand the substitution of Judy Garland's recording of "The Trolley Song," which she sang in Meet Me In St. Louis, for the Pied Pipers' more successful one, but why use Jo Stafford's "It Could Happen To You," her third most successful song of the year and barely within the top 100? More idiosyncratic than most volumes in this series, Your Hit Parade: 1944 is not among the best entries.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann