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The Great Songwriters – Harry Warren

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Album Review

British label ASV Living Era's series of The Song Is albums of compilations of the work of American songwriters uses recordings contemporary to the songs' composition, which makes them invaluable as historical documents, even if, for American listeners, the selections sometimes leave something to be desired. Perusal of the 25-track Harry Warren disc proves no exception. Compiler/producer Peter Dempsey notes that Warren "wrote far more standards than could be accommodated in one CD compilation." True enough, and fair warning that Dempsey intends to sample from the vast Warren catalog rather than try for a greatest-hits approach, which is borne out when you consider that he includes only 11 of the 19 chart-topping hits Warren wrote during the 1931-1943 period under consideration. Nor is Dempsey worried about featuring the most successful versions of the songs: only five of the selections present the biggest hit recordings — "Young and Healthy" and "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," by Bing Crosby, "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "At Last," by Glenn Miller, and "You'll Never Know," by Dick Haymes. The substitutions are unobjectionable when they include notable performers like Fletcher Henderson ("Nagasaki"), the Boswell Sisters ("42nd Street" and "Shuffle Off to Buffalo"), Eddy Duchin ("I Only Have Eyes for You"), and the Mills Brothers ("Jeepers Creepers"). But a significant part of the disc — ten tracks out of 25 — consists of British recordings by performers unlikely to be familiar to American listeners, even though some, notably pianist Hutch and the team of Layton and Johnstone, were popular in the U.K. at the time. The result is a mish-mash, presenting some of Warren's best by some of his best interpreters of the time, along with some other material and performers that are second-rate.

Biography

Born: 24 December 1893 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s

American songwriter and publisher Harry Warren was responsible for hits spanning over 30 years, starting with his first successful tune, "Rose of the Rio Grande," in 1922. Born Salvatore Guaragna in 1893 in Brooklyn, NY, the composer wrote hundreds of popular songs and show tunes, including three for which he received Oscars: "Lullaby of Broadway," "On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe," and "You'll Never Know," which was also his biggest seller in sheet music. Other well-known tunes penned...
Full bio

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