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BING CROSBY/Return to Paradise Islands: Who here remembers what Crosby's first gold record was? Go on, wade through all that bubbababoo and think about it. It was Hawaiian song, "Sweet Lilani", which also won an Oscar for best song after he introduced it. Well, the times they were a changing when he went back to the island song bag in the early 60s for his last musical excursion into the land of the pineapple.. Favoring Nelson Riddle as his musical sidekick over the musical minimalism of the past records, it was a nice send off to a genre that served him well over time. The ol' groaner mixed up the song list nicely and came up with anything but a jive record. A delightful bit of gringo/tiki nostalgia rounded out with some genre appropriate bonus tracks that'll have you polishing the wood in that paneled basement in no time. Fun stuff throughout.

BING CROSBY/Seasons: Newly billed as "The Closing Chapter", this deluxe edition of Crosby's final album almost feels like he knew the end was coming and wanted to leave the fans with a well wrought closing statement capping off a classic, American pop career. A pretty unassailable collection, there's enough bonus tracks on board to make a whole other album, all recorded pretty much contemporaneously. With Summer Wind", "September Song" and "Yesterday when I was Young" running up to the album's closing, this is something that was easily overlooked in the disco boom of 1977 but now, fans old and new can appreciate this coda.

BING CROSBY/El Senor Bing: Crosby liked Latin music as much as he did Hawaiian music, and this little gem, recorded with Billy May in high fettle, was recorded during the time when it seemed that every major singer had to do an obligatory Latin album. Densely packed with Mighty Sparrow type medleys, the songs aren't all Latin to begin with, but when you're as Irish as Crosby was, what difference does it make. There's more than enough bonus tracks to make a whole new album, or two, and the party is in high gear, post war suburban style. Maybe we're all into this "Mad Men" thing because it was the last time the country went nuts in synch in high style.

BING CROSBY/On the Sentimental Side: An unreleased 1962 album that Frank probably decided at the last minute was too square to release, this set finds Crosby in the midst of what he does best, be America's hipish balladeer. You know all these songs from Looney Toons and MGM cartoons--but this was the classic American songbook until the contemporary divas moved in and told you what was what. Often corny but always fun, the thing that makes this otherwise unreleased set right on the money is the closing bonus track of "Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral". State of the art crooning early 60s style.

BING CROSBY/So Rare-Treasures from the Crosby Archive: This is the kind of twofer that could create a whole new generation of Crosby fans two generations after Crosby passed. Totally loaded with things from deep in his personal archive, you know the songs but they are from radio shows, forgotten b sides, live concerts and more of the out of the way places away from the record making process that make up a career. With some talking tracks interpolated along the way, Crosby becomes personal as opposed to being purely an icon. The performances and the quality is never assailable and the take on tracks you know as done by others gives them a delightfully fresh, "new", perspective. Check it out.

BING CROSBY/Bing on Broadway: This is the kind of album we like to see form an icon that's been long gone, the non-album. Crosby never recorded a Broadway album, but he recorded a lot of Broadway songs for his radio show, the place this collection is assembled from. He had the creative freedom to chose his own material and the choices were on the money as far as this collection goes. Working with a jazz quartet where everybody seems to be having a good time, this gets our vote because it has an after hours feel, even if it was supposed to be polished for radio consumption. Even though limited by it's Broadway scope, this is almost a better introduction to Crosby for the uninitiated than a run of the mill greatest hits set.

PHIL WOODS with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble/Solitude: Move over Texas Lab Band. There's some swinging cats at DePaul, and like in college football, there's a whole new crop of them that have come up since the last time this bunch faced off with Phil Woods. A killer big band date, with all new compositions by Woods getting an initial airing here. A solidly must hear set for big band fans that notice their sweet tooth goes unfilled for long stretches these days. This delightful and swinging set finds vet Woods at the top of his game surrounded by what could easily be a bunch of stars of tomorrow. Check it out.

GREGORY PORTER/Water: A very interesting jazz vocal debut on several levels. First off, this cat has the Wynton Marsalis stamp of approval. Second, he writes his own material with a heavy leaning toward art jazz. Even though there's no way you'd know these songs ahead of time, Porter deliver does a great job of inviting you to hang around and hear what's happening. Certainly the kind of stuff that would have flown out of Rizzoli on the strength of store play in the old days, this is must hearing for the sophisticated listener looking for some quite compatible sounds.

Volume 33/Number 184
May 4, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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