This collection, from English Decca Records' retrospective Eclipse imprint, was issued in time for the 50th anniversary of VE-Day, but it doesn't have any direct chronological association with that event, even if Vera Lynn is forever associated with World War II. Rather, it assembles 26 sides from the second phase of her career, from 1951 through 1959, which, although not as celebrated in history as the first, was even more successful in financial terms. Having announced her retirement at the end of World War II, at the age of 28, Lynn reappeared in the recording studio barely a year later and resumed her career, and for the next decade, on record and in performance -- and on the new medium of television -- enjoyed another round of hit records and national stardom. The material is all vocal pop with a decided retro orientation: Dorothy Fields' 1933-vintage "Don't Blame Me" (best known to rock & roll audiences for the Everly Brothers' rendition); the 1929-vintage "I'll Always Be in Love with You"; and "A Perfect Day," from 1911, are typical of the material, which is drawn from various singles and LPs cut for Decca across the decade. The odd aspect of this album is that even though it represents the cream of the second phase of Lynn's career, it's comprised of exactly the same material that she could have (and would have -- and, in some instances, may well have) used during the first phase, in the middle of World War II. In that sense, it fits in perfectly with the more obviously war-nostalgia related releases of 1995, and is just as illustrative of Lynn's art and appeal. The mood is one of warm nostalgia, not so much for the war years as for the innocent time that preceded them, interspersed with a couple of Irish-themed novelty tunes. Strangely enough, when she breaks away from that approach, as on Cole Porter's "I Am Loved" -- from the then-recent show Out of This World -- she takes on a whole different caste, passionate and bold, and appealing in very different ways; it's the highlight of the entire collection and the most unusual side here, whereas the lean, gently swinging "My Happiness" is the best of the vintage numbers (and the least "vintage" sounding). Most of the accompaniments are provided by Roland Shaw and his orchestra, with additional contributions by Frank Weir and Reg Owen, in some combination, and it all sounds great on a technical level -- the digital transfers are first-rate, and annotator John Tracy does an excellent job of retelling this phase of Lynn's career, and there's even an international discography (it's surprising how many of these recordings got U.S. releases).
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