Although at 20 tracks this is somewhat short measure by today's standards, I've given it 5 stars as a corrective against the previous reviewer's two bites at the cherry, both of which exaggerate the imperfections. The opening number is "The Very Thought Of You" set against Monia Liter's stylish piano accompaniment, and I was hard put to detect surface noise.
It's true that credits are inadequate. Tracks 3,4,6,8 & 11 are with Roy Fox, track 5 is with Howard Godfrey, tracks 7,9,15,17 & 18 are with a studio orchestra and were issued under Al Bowlly's own name, tracks 10,13,19 & 20 are with Lew Stone, track 14 is the Deauville DB (Harry Hudson), and track 16 is with Sid Phillips & his Melodians. Collectors will know that some of these are considerable rarities, and to lay stress on (quite minimal) surface noise is to look a gift horse in the mouth.
These are superb performances, all of which merit their their reissue, and some of which you'll not find elsewhere.
on 31 October 2000
Al Bowlly stands alone amongst the British dance band singers of the Thirties. How many perfectly well-produced recordings of the time were not spoilt by the strangled tight-collar, tight-trousers "vocal refrain" from such luminaries as Jack Plant, Sam Browne, Sam Costa et al ? Bowlly transends all this. With his rich voice and excellent diction there are plenty of classy recordings from his substantial output which stand the critical test of time and changing singing styles. And with his dark, attractive features he looked the part too !!!
This recently released collection of some of his recordings ( more correctly titled "The Best of EARLY Al Bowlly", as it only covers his 1931-1935 period of output ) does not disappoint from that perspective. Fine and well orchestrated recordings of both long forgotten songs and others still familiar to us today, are still easy on the ear. So, in this regard Bowlly's reputataion is re-affirmed. However, on a different level the C.D. disappoints.....
With the ready availability to today's digital mastering techniques, dominent and ugly surface noise can and should be largely eliminated and the recording itself electronically enhanced. Yet, far too many of these numbers appear just to have been dumped to C.D. from the next best scratchy 78 with little or no screening of any kind. Indeed, in a number of instances my vinyl copies of the very same recordings are far superior. This is unacceptable and the record-buying public has the right to expect something better produced than this. Any true Al Bowlly fan would be happy to pay a premium for the favorable results of this simple and routine process. So brace yourself for what at times is an over-generous portion of bacon-and-eggs surface noise.
Al Bowlly was killed at the early age of 43 while trying to sit out a London air raid in 1941 and a significant popular voice was lost. Fortunately, the volume of his output over the preceding decade was vast and we should be thankful that so much of it is still available in any format. But, come on guys ! Turn on your filters and your woofers and your tweeters before you deliver it to the unsuspecting public....
There are 20 songs, released by Spectrum Music from UK in 2000. I have compiled a more detailed song listing (with label & number, names of orchestra, chart position with personal comments):
01 The Very Thought of You (with Monica Liters)(Decca F-3963)(US 1(5)/1934)*there are 2 versions: the other with Ray Nobles (HMV B-6482)(uncharted a-side, 1934).
02 Love Is The Sweetest Thing (with orchestra)(Decca F-3194)(US 1(5)/1933)*there are 2 versions: the other with Ray Nobles’ New Mayfair Dance Orchestra (HMV B-6245)(b-side, 1932)
03 I Found You (Roy Fox & His Band)(Decca F-2404)(uncharted a-side, 1931)*rare gem.
04 Love, You Funny Thing (Roy Fox & His Band)(Decca F-2964)(uncharted a-side, 1932)
05 Got A Date With An Angel (New Mayfair Dance Orchestra)(HMV B-6098)(b-side, 1931)*2 versions: the other with the Waldorfians (Piccadilly 855)(uncharted a-side, 1931).
06 If Anything Happened To You (with the Rhythm Maniacs, a pseudonym for Ray Fox & His Band) (Decca F-3086)(uncharted a-side, 1932)*rare gem; there is another song with the same title with Fred Elizalde’s Rhythmicians, but a completely different song.
07 Night and Day (with Carroll Gibbons & His Orchestra)(Decca F-3695)(uncharted a-side, 1933)
08 Ooh! That Kiss (Roy Fox & His Band)(Decca F-3099)(b-side, 1932)*rare gem.
09 Everything I Have Is Yours (Ray Noble’s Orchestra)(Decca F-3853)(uncharted a-side, 1934)*rare gem.
10 Love in Bloom (Lew Stone & His Band)(Decca F-5158)(uncharted a-side, 1934)
11 You’re My Everything (Roy Fox & His Band)(Decca F-3099)(uncharted a-side, 1932)
12 I’d Rather Be A Beggar With You (with orchestra)(Decca F-2285)(uncharted a-side, 1931)*3 versions: the other with New Mayfair Dance Orchestra (HMV B-6040)(uncharted a-side, 1931) and Roy Fox & His Band (Decca F-2438)(uncharted a-side, 1931).
13 On The Sentimental Side (Lew Stone & His Band)(Decca F-6795)(b-side, 1938)*2 versions: the other with Geraldo & His Orchestra (HMV BD-5402)(b-side, 1938)
14 I’m Thru With Love (with Deauville Dance Band)(EBR 1558)(b-side, 1931)
15 That’s Me Without You (with small orchestra)(Decca F-3853)(b-side, 1934)*rare gem.
16 Heartaches (with Sid Phillips & His Melodians)(EBW 5358)(uncharted a-side, 1931)
17 Were You Sincere (with orchestra)(Decca F-2285)(uncharted a-side, 1931)
18 Happy-Go-Lucky You And Broken-Hearted Me (with small instrumental group)(Decca F-3145)(uncharted a-side, 1932)
19 Easy Come, Easy Go (Lew Stone & His Band)(Decca F-5018)(b-side, 1934)
20 Thanks (Lew Stone & His Band)(Decca F-3722)(b-side, 1933)*2 versions: the other version with Ray Noble’s Orchestra (HMV B-6413)(b-side, 1933)
1 This is a decent collection of 20 Al Bowlly’s songs from Decca with many popular hits. There are quite a few rare gems.
2 All the versions are original versions, no alternate versions, from Decca. Spectrum Music is a budget label under Universal Music who owns Decca.
1 The sound is average, with a layer of hiss, with some songs, like Are You Sincere, louder than others. Occasional clicks are also heard. Mind you, this set was released in 2000. But with the availability of current remastering software like Cedar, the above deficiencies can be carefully eliminated.
2 The booklet is 4 page, with no label & number, and no names of orchestra. As noted above, sometimes, there are many different versions to the same song. To identify the correct version requires label & name of orchestra, neither of which is available. Luckily, the songs are from Decca.
3 Time: 60 minutes. Surely, more songs could have been included to fill up the remaining 20 minutes, with Al Bowlly having a discography of 1218 songs.
COMPLETE SINGLES DISCOGRAPHY:
During his brief 15 year of recordings, Al Bowlly has made over 1000 recordings, under different labels & orchestra. Surprisingly, he only charted three times on his own: (1) If I Had You (12/1929), (2) Blue Moon (5/1935) and My Melancholy Baby (20/1935). He was featured vocalist for many bands, mainly consisting of (1) Geraldo & His Orchestra (1931), (2) Ray Fox & His Band (1931 – 1932), (3) Ray Noble & His Orchestra (1932 – 1937) and (4) Lew Stone & His Band (1933 – 1938). To construct a Complete Singles Discography is a difficult and challenging task, a true labour of love, because of the large number of recordings made. I patiently used the label & number, plus year of release as reference, and constructed a 609 singles discography (charted and uncharted, a- and b-sides, but only 1207 songs, not 1218 songs, because 2 were repeated releases and 9 sides belonged to other artists). His main labels are: (1) DG (Deutsche Grammophon), Hom (Homochord), EBW (Edison Bell Winner)(1927-1928), (2) Columbia (1929), (3) Piccadilly, Sterno, Dominion, Metropole & Regal (1929), (4) HMV (1930), (5) Victory (1930), (6) EBR (Edison Bell Radio)(1930), (7) Broadcast (1930 – 1931), (8) Decca (1931 – 1932), (9) Durium (1932), (10) Victor (1932), (11) HMV (1932), (12) Decca (1932 – 1935), (13) Victor (1935 – 1937), (14) HMV (1938), (15) Decca (1938), and (16) HMV (1938 – 1941).
In trying to complete my singles discography on Al Bowlly, I am slowly and patiently collecting all the CDs available. So far, the best set belongs to The Al Bowlly Collection 1927-41, a 4 CD 100 songs collection with great sound and booklet with orchestra and label noted. (my review is found elsewhere). I bought this current one because there are a few rare gems that are not available elsewhere. For the general public, this set is a good introduction to the beautiful voice and talents of Al Bowlly, and is recommended.
on 16 July 2008
Curious as to what the fuss was all about I ordered this cd. And I must confess that all three colleague-reviewers are correct in their assesment of this cd (with which I do not mean to say that I necessarily agree with their judgement). True, there is a lot more 78's surface noise than on most Vocalion or Past Perfect reissues. No, to me that isn't much of a problem, because quite honestly the "enhancement" often changes the aural picture of the original recording, not always for the better.
It is however also true that a little more care in the preparation would have prevented the irritating late start of two tracks ("Easy Come, Easy Go", where the first bar of the introductory guitar is all but missed and "Love you funny thing"); furthermore, the sound quality of "On the Sentimental Side" is dull despite the bacon-and-eggs noise in the background; so there is evidence of editing, but alas to the detriment (a much clearer version is available on Vocalion's most recent Lew Stone reissue); on the recording of "Ooh, That Kiss" there is evidence of unnatural reverb, so I venture the assumption that this item was drawn from an earlier reissue.
The big plus here is that most selections at the time of issue (2000) had not appeared elsewhere on cd and that the accompaniments by lesser known bands such as Sid Phillips, Harry Hudson and Howard Godfrey are very pleasant indeed. I'm not certain whether this selection represents "the best" of Al Bowlly, but it is certainly worth your consideration, despite the gripes.
By the way on You Tube you can see a delightful film short with Al Bowlly and Monia Liter performing "The Very Thought of You".