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The Harry James Orchestra: The Best of the War Years

The Harry James Orchestra

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Album Review

During the swing era, jazz was not thought of as cerebral, highbrow music that only appealed to intellectuals in Sweden. It was part of popular culture, and swing's big bands made their presence felt in the places where popular culture usually makes its presence felt: high school dances, jukeboxes, neighborhood bars, movies, and ballrooms (which were the dance clubs of their time). So when Harry James, one of swing's superstars, and other big band leaders took part in the United States government's V-disc program during World War II, it was a lot like Billy Joel (just to give one example) expressing his patriotism after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Spanning 1941-1944, The Best of the War Years focuses on live and studio performances that came out on military V-discs. Back then, none of these recordings were sold commercially; V-discs were strictly for the enjoyment of American servicemen. But it isn't uncommon for people in the private sector to sell collections of V-disc recordings to civilians — which is a good thing, because the material on this 20-track CD is generally quite solid, if less than essential. Neither instrumentals nor vocals are neglected. As a trumpet-playing instrumentalist, James is as pleasing on up-tempo workouts (including "Crazy Rhythm" and "Tuxedo Junction") as he is on something as lyrical as "Autumn Serenade." And Helen Forrest (one of the top big band singers of the '30s and '40s) is characteristically sentimental when James features her on "I Cried for You" and other standards. The Best of the War Years isn't recommended to casual listeners, who would be better off sticking to James' well-known Columbia hits. But for hardcore swing collectors, these V-disc recordings are a joy to listen to.

Customer Reviews

AMG Review

During the swing era, jazz was not thought of as cerebral, highbrow music that only appealed to intellectuals in Sweden. It was part of popular culture, and swing's big bands made their presence felt in the places where popular culture usually makes its presence felt: high school dances, jukeboxes, neighborhood bars, movies, and ballrooms (which were the dance clubs of their time). So when Harry James, one of swing's superstars, and other big band leaders took part in the United States government's V-disc program during World War II, it was a lot like Billy Joel (just to give one example) expressing his patriotism after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Spanning 1941-1944, The Best of the War Years focuses on live and studio performances that came out on military V-discs. Back then, none of these recordings were sold commercially; V-discs were strictly for the enjoyment of American servicemen. But it isn't uncommon for people in the private sector to sell collections of V-disc recordings to civilians -- which is a good thing, because the material on this 20-track CD is generally quite solid, if less than essential. Neither instrumentals nor vocals are neglected. As a trumpet-playing instrumentalist, James is as pleasing on up-tempo workouts (including "Crazy Rhythm" and "Tuxedo Junction") as he is on something as lyrical as "Autumn Serenade." And Helen Forrest (one of the top big band singers of the '30s and '40s) is characteristically sentimental when James features her on "I Cried for You" and other standards. The Best of the War Years isn't recommended to casual listeners, who would be better off sticking to James' well-known Columbia hits. But for hardcore swing collectors, these V-disc recordings are a joy to listen to.

Very cool, a great listen

Kick back to these tunes like it was 1944 and enjoy the melodies. Since it was made in 1944 I don’t expect there to be any post-production mastering done, and am very content and satisfied with the output on my stereo at home and in the car. If you want the modern version of Harry James then purchase the re-recorded live set from the Hollywood Palladium in 1997, but if you want to hear the authentic article, then enjoy these tracks as they were recorded back in the day, and enjoy them with all their imperfections. Besides these tracks were apart of the V-disc program and originally produced only for the ears of those servicemen during the War. To be able to hear them is pretty cool, enjoy the listen!

The Harry James Orchestra: The Best of the War Years, The Harry James Orchestra
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Customer Ratings