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Extended Analysis

Bing Crosby: The CBS Radio Recordings 1954-56

By Published: January 25, 2010
Bing Crosby
The CBS Radio Recordings 1954-56
Mosaic Records

For many years, in millions of homes, singer Bing Crosby ruled the airwaves. A large chunk of the US listened to his Kraft Music Hall on a weekly basis and as a result Crosby was able to dominate the music industry (and later the movie industry) without serious rivals. Aside from developing the template for radio programs, his most notable accomplishment may have been the move from live programming to taped recordings. Understandably, after doing it for years, Crosby wanted to be free of the pressures of live radio performance (of which there was a West Coast and East Coast show, doubling the likelihood of on-air flubs.) But he also wanted to be able to record his show in advance—in other words, he wanted to be able to hit the links at Pebble Beach whenever he wanted. Crosby pioneered the use of tapes to prerecord his programs. This enabled him to keep his radio show going while pursuing other interests; in fact, he stayed loyal to radio long after many of his contemporaries had been permanently lured away by television.

Thus we have these recordings from 1954 to 1956, recorded for Crosby's CBS radio show. All were done over a of few recording sessions under the direction of Buddy Cole

Buddy Cole
, Crosby's long time musical director. The seven discs in this set are a whirlwind tour of popular music from the first part of the 20th century: some classics, some novelties, some hokey, some forgettable, all done with the crooner's ebullient charm and nonchalant delivery. All these recordings are filled with breezy swing and the relaxed air of people who know they can take another take if they need it. It's perhaps fitting, given the star's origins on radio, that these are among the freshest, most fun recordings he ever made and a lot better that the stuff he was putting out for Decca at the time.

Crosby had an uncanny ability to remember a large number of tunes and was able to nail almost every song in a couple of takes. Even then he was surprisingly prolific; it was not unusual for him to exceed the usual six songs per session to 17 or 18. He was in fine form vocally on these sessions, injecting the patter that he was known for in the form of jokes about movie studios and Bob Hope. However, a great deal of the success comes from Buddy Cole, Crosby's long time arranger. Cole was never a terrific musician in his own right—he recorded a few organ records under his own name that went nowhere—but he was a superb accompanist with a bouncy, lively style that incorporated elements of swing, boogie-woogie or whatever else the occasion called for. He could also move seamlessly between instruments, and it's common to hear him playing with one hand on the piano and the other on the organ.

The other players provide sturdy backing as well; in particular Vince Terri on guitar, who contributes tasteful chords and nimble solos. It's particularly satisfying to hear so many jazz breaks on these records and it clearly helps Crosby's credentials as a guy who was rooted in jazz when it was just popular music. Cole and Terri both get in their dues, and contribute the type of solos that session men are known for: always serviceable, never spectacular.

So what we have is a tour of some of the best and most popular songs over the past 30 years. Many of them are standards (some freshly so), and some are novelty numbers from musicals that aren't pinnacles of songwriting, yet ones that Crosby knows he can pull off with his folksy delivery. Since they were all prerecorded, Crosby could replay more popular tunes again in subsequent shows. Only a few misfires exist. "Unchained Melody" is one of those songs in which the best-known version is so definitive, it sounds awful if anyone else does it. "My Funny Valentine" is too maudlin for Crosby, and there's absolutely no reason why anyone should use a harpsichord on any song (particularly the already hackneyed "Love and Marriage").

As befits a Mosaic set, the sound is absolutely superb; these tracks sound as if they were recorded for broadcast in 2010. Crosby knew that in order for the prerecorded idea to work, the quality of the tape needed degrees of fidelity and reliability to approximate live performance, and thanks to the Ampex company, he more than succeeded. The original tapes were obviously in pristine condition (small wonder as most hadn't been touched or heard in years) and the fastidiousness that Mosaic employs in putting out their product make these the best sounding Crosby recordings currently available. Also included in the packaging is a history of Crosby's relationship with the radio, as well as a discussion of some of the more interesting anecdotes about the material.

Despite the fact that he ruled the entertainment industry for years, Crosby has not received the hipness stamp that other crooners have. You can throw on any Rat Pack record at a party for an air of cool; put on Crosby and people will wonder when the retirement van will pull up. To be fair, Sinatra didn't record as much piffle as Crosby did, and thus his recordings will always be more swanky than corny. But if there's a benefit to this set it will be to establish Crosby as a guy who could swing with the best of them. Mosaic has done it again, creating a definitive set of recordings that deserved to be unearthed.

Tracks: CD1: If I Give My Heart To You; Mandy; Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep; I'm A Fool To Care; Hey There; Anyone Can Fall In Love; I Need You Now; I Want To Be Happy; Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now; But Not For Me; Honeysuckle Rose; The Nearness Of You; Ain't Misbehavin'; Just You, Just Me; Once In A While; You Took Advantage Of Me; Ol' Man River; Thou Swell; S Wonderful; Oh, Look At Me Now; I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm; All Through The Night; Taking A Chance On Love. CD2: We're In The Money (The Golddiggers' Song); This Can't Be Love; I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me; Love Is The Sweetest Thing; Back In Your Own Backyard; I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan; Don't Take Your Love From Me; You're In Kentucky Sure As You're Born; Young and Foolish; My Own True Love (Tara's Theme); Sunday; That's All I Want From You; Unsuspecting Heart; A Man Chases A Girl; Melody Of Love; Darling, Je Vous Aime, Beaucoup; How Important Can It Be?; I Hear Music; As Long As I Live; Try A Little Tenderness; What Is There To Say?; Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White; Danger! Heartbreak Ahead. CD3: In A Little Spanish Town; It's A Most Unusual Day; Unchained Melody; Something's Gotta Give; I Belong To You; Keep It Gay; Just A Baby's Prayer At Twilight; You Do Something To Me; Nice Work If You Can Get It; How Long Has This Been Going On?; 'Deed I Do; Cocktails For Two; Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea; How Am I To Know?; I Get A Kick Out Of You; I See Your Face Before Me; The Lady Is A Tramp; I'm Yours; Get Happy; My Ideal; Gypsy In My Soul; That's The Way Love Goes. CD4: I'll Never Say "Never Again" Again; It's All Right With Me; Serenade In The Night; Wake The Town And Tell The People; She's Funny That Way; If I May; Domani (Tomorrow); I'll Never Stop Loving You; Goodnight, Sweet Dreams, Mary Lou; Love Me Or Leave Me; (You Gotta Have) Heart; Swanee; Shhh In Madrid; Avalon; Blue Star (The Medic Theme); Love Is A Many Splendored Thing; The Tender Trap; My Blue Heaven; What Is This Thing Called Love?; When I Take My Sugar To Tea; Someone You Love; Avalon Town; There Should Be Rules. CD5: New Sun In The Sky; Love And Marriage; Merci Beaucoup; Way Down Yonder In New Orleans; Waitin' For the Evening Mail; Isle Of Capri; I Feel A Song Comin' On; You're The Top; Breezin' Along With The Breeze; Anything Goes; Manhattan; From This Moment On; Yours; We'll Be Together Again; My Funny Valentine; Jeannine, I Dream Of Lilac Time; Carolina In The Morning; Crazy Rhythm; You Turned The Tables On Me; That Old Black Magic; Arrivederci Roma; No, Not Much; On The Alamo. CD6: Come Rain Or Come Shine; If You Can Dream; I Can't Get Started; Little Man, You've Had a Busy Day; I've Got A Crush On You; Margie; Yes Sir! That's My Baby; The Object Of My Affection; Sometimes I'm Happy; When My Baby Smiles At Me; I Got Rhythm; Just Around The Corner; Strike Up the Band; Muskrat Ramble; That's A-Plenty; At The Jazz Band Ball; Smiles; I'd Climb The Highest Mountain; My Baby Just Cares For Me; Fine And Dandy; Georgia On My Mind; Alabamy Bound; When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along. CD7: You're Driving Me Crazy; On The Street Where You Live; If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight); I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face; Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise; Too Marvelous For Words; Moonglow (Theme From Picnic); Chinatown, My Chinatown; I Wish You Love; Lullaby Of Broadway; I Almost Lost My Mind; You're Sensational; Then I'll Be Happy; Don't Blame Me; My Heart Stood Still; L'Amour, Toujours, L'Amour (Love Everlasting); Button Up Your Overcoat; Chicago; Get Me To The Church On Time; More Than You Know; Cheek To Cheek; I'm Confessin' That I Love You; They Didn't Believe Me.

Personnel: Bing Crosby: vocals; Buddy Cole: piano, organ, celeste, harpsichord; Vince Terri: guitar, banjo; Don Whitaker: bass; Nick Fatool: drums; additional musicians Matty Matlock: clarinet; Fred Falensby: tenor sax; Clyde Hurley: trumpet; Abe Lincoln: trombone.

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