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A BETTER ALTERNATIVE
on 3 October 2009
At the time of writing the Decca reissue under the title "The Very Best Of Vera Lynn" has become a best-seller. This CD contains five more tracks, all recorded between 1936 and 1943, and is every bit as deserving, particularly given also that it is considerably cheaper. From a collector's point of view it has two shortcomings: the tracklist carries no details other than composer and publisher credits, and the liner note is woefully inadequate. That's not for lack of space, because the CD carries three identical photos of Vera Lynn, at least one of which is the reverse of the true image!
To fill in some of the blanks, Charles Smart accompanies tracks 3, 4, 5 and 18 on the organ, and on track 5 he's joined by Freddy Gardner on sax. Tracks 7 and 25 feature Arthur Young on the Novachord, and track 23 is accompanied by Maurice Winnick. Track 9 is taken from a 1942 broadcast with Eugene Pini, hence the somewhat obtrusive surface noise. Elsewhere honours are shared between Mantovani (1, 10, 15, 21 and 22), Jay Wilbur (6, 11, 12, 13 and 16), and Ambrose (8, 19, 20 and 24). Track 24 is in fact a duet with Denny Dennis.
All of this detail is important, and the failure to publicise it sells the CD short (although the Decca reissue is similarly lacking in detail). As best I can see, however, only three tracks are duplicated, so even if you've helped already to propel Dame Vera into the charts by buying the better-known reissue, there's no reason not to go for this in addition.
Any reissue that is titled "The Best Of" tempts the reviewer to nominate tracks that should have been included, but weren't, but I shall resist on the basis that this gives an excellent account of Vera Lynn's talents in the late thirties and early forties. She had a remarkable voice, and her choice of material was pitched at those fighting overseas, and those waiting anxiously at home. Despite its shortcomings this is every bit as deserving of five stars as the Decca reissue, if not more so.