WORKS: Big Band Sounds at MGM
PERFORMER: Various big bands including those led by Artie Shaw, Bob Crosby, Tommy Dorsey and Harry James
CATALOGUE NO: R272721 (distr. Warner Bros)
The ‘Swing’ craze that is sweeping America has been described as the first major lifestyle change in youth culture since punk.
After a 50-year absence, partner dancing is back, as dancers learn the Lindy Hop and the Suzie Q. With it come the clothes, the hairstyles, the make-up and the sound of the Thirties and Forties – the music of the big bands. Suddenly ‘Swing’ compilations are abounding as this music is recycled for a new youth audience.
This compilation, however, has been assembled with a less cynical motive, and is a valuable historical document, offering genuine stereo versions of numbers from as early as 1939 and often in extended form (ie longer than the old 78 rpm playing time).
All these tracks are issued here for the first time. Recorded using multiple microphone angles at studio session pre-recordings allowed the masters to be re-mixed into stereo, capturing the spatial reality of the big bands impossible on 78s. Included are three Artie Shaw numbers from the 1939 film Dancing Co-Ed that includes a memorable out-take of ‘At Sundown’ in dazzling modern fidelity.
There are several Tommy Dorsey numbers, including stereo versions of ‘Opus One’, ‘Hawaiian War Chant’ and ‘Song of India’ from 1944, plus ‘Blue Skies’ with Sinatra. There’s a brilliant, jumping ‘One O’Clock Jump’ by Jimmy Dorsey recorded at the peak of his popularity which coincided with the AFM recording ban. Despite a couple of dogs, this is a fascinating way to revisit history. Stuart Nicholson