on 25 April 2003
An absolutely brilliant compilation of music from the 1930s. I defy anyone not to smile at "You Rascal, You" and "That's What You Think" or feel weepy at Anne Lenner's rendition of "The Moon Got in My Eyes". There are lots of familiar songs, melodies and artists and others not so well-known, all at a bargain price. Satisfaction guaranteed!!
on 27 August 2010
Nowhere here does it say that this is the soundtrack from Dennis Potter's "Pennies From Heaven", that wonderful TV mini-series starring Bob Hoskins and Gemma Craven. AVID do, however, state that this was their inspiration for compiling a cd set of music from that time. Still, there are songs from the TV series here...most notably the better of the two versions of "Roll Along Prairie Moon". Other selections are interesting as well. The first version of Pennies From Heaven is not only Bing Crosbly because he is joined by Francis Langford, Louis Armstrong along with Jimmy Dorsey's orchestra. It's a version I haven't heard before. Likewise, "I'll be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You" which is here sung by Jack Teagarden along with Fats Waller. The TV show featured mainly (in not ONLY) British dance bands but this cd set has it's fair share of Americans...even outweighing the Brit content. Sinatra, Garland, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Fred Astaire, Teddy Wilson in addition to those already mentioned..so I'm glad to find a few tracks by the great Al Bowlly. As with most AVID releases, the sound quality is exceptional for the age of the material. I'd recommend it, for sure!
Anyone expecting to find that this 2-CD contains only original numbers from Dennis Potter's TV series (to which the liner note refers specifically) will be disappointed, because it's a mixture of some of them with other songs from the era. To be fair, the third paragraph of the liner note states "Any of these titles could have been on the producers short list". True (apart from Turner Layton and Hutch) but that could apply equally well to any number of British dance band compilations, and you don't read that disclaimer until you've bought it!
Having said that it's a very good compilation, which contains several tracks you'll be hard put to find elsewhere, and at a budget price. But it loses a star for deceptive presentation, a somewhat skimpy liner note, and no recording details other than title, artist and composer.
Elsewhere I've reviewed a 2-CD set called "Pennies From Heaven", which started and ended with the title track, carried 44 tracks, and had nothing to do with Dennis Potter's TV series. This 2-CD set from Avid carries 44 tracks, starts and ends with the same title tracks, and duplicates the majority of the songs, with the important distinction that they are almost all different versions. As Alice would have said, "Curiouser and curiouser". Avid does claim to have taken the TV series as its inspiration but only about a dozen of the tracks featured in that series, so "The Essential Collection" is something of a misnomer.
The remainder appear to have been drawn from earlier releases in the Essential Collection series, an impression which is borne out by other albums pictured below the brief liner note. In other words this compilation falls between two stools because most of it is a sampler, albeit one in disguise. Whilst that's not necessarily a fault, it may detract from its appeal to avid collectors, particularly if they already own one or more of the earlier CDs. 44 tracks is not an over-generous measure, but since it's priced to sell at just under £5, it all boils down to how many of these tracks you have already, and how much you want the others.