From her first recording in mid-1931 until late 1939 Lee Wiley recorded less than twenty titles, some of which were never issued originally (for which see "The Complete Young Lee Wiley"). This compilation finishes with three songs from that period, two from November 1934 with Victor Young, and one from that March with Johnny Green, then jumps to the 1940 Commodore recording of "Sugar". It kicks off, however, with the November 1939 session of four Gershwin songs for the Liberty Music Shop label, on which the accompaniment included Max Kaminsky, Bud Freeman, and George Wettling. Next up is the April 1940 Cole Porter session, which includes Bunny Berigan and Johnny Mince, then the February 1940 Rodgers & Hart session. The remaining four tracks of Harold Arlen compositions come from a post-1942 session with Eddie Condon & his Orchestra.
Little of which is to be gleaned from either the tracklist, or compiler Stan Britt's liner note. But as a collector of leaden prose I'd single out the sentence "An innate sexuality-in-delivery for many female vocalists hasn't been concomitant with a levelling of subtlety in all too many cases", and there's plenty more where that came from! A legendary song stylist deserves somewhat better, which coupled with only 20 tracks accounts for the 3-star rating.
on 7 September 2014
I first heard of Lee Wiley on the Clare Teal show on BBC Radio 2 on a Sunday night between 9-11pm, (highly recommended for those who like jazz and big band music), and wondered why her recordings are not heard more. Her voice has a smokey, smouldering and milky quality that allows the listener a greater level of intimacy than is experienced by listening to most other singers. Unlike say, Marlene Dietrich, Lee's singing is never contrived or over-the-top. Instead, she has the ability to achieve effortlessly what divas like the aforementioned Ms Dietrich put's-on. This is a mark of a genuinely natural singer.
Of the twenty song's on this digitally remastered release from Castle Music, my favourites include "S'Wonderful, Sweet and Low Down, Why Shouldn't I?, You Do Something To Me, Glad To Be Unhappy, A Ship Without A Sail" and "You Said It." Incidentally, although this collection has been remastered as previously mentioned, I believe that more could have been done to ensure better quality print on the cd - hence only the four stars. Nonetheless this is still a good listen. A liner note by Stan Britt is an eclectic read, though as I previously knew nothing of Lee Wiley, I am glad it is here.
I highly recommend any collection of songs by Lee Wiley and this is a good introduction.