Lee Wiley was one of the greatest of jazz singers and this compilation of four of her albums is an excellent one. 'Night in Manhattan' and 'Sings Yeomans and Berlin' were originally issued as three 10" albums in the early days of LP. The twenty-four numbers were subsequently reissued by American Columbia on two 12" discs. The tracks with Bobby Hackett and Joe Bushkin are among the finest she ever recorded and those where Lee Wiley is accompanied by two pianists nearly as good. The first disc of this compilation is completed by two tracks she contributed to a Victor anthology. These are enjoyable performances but not essential ones.
The second disc includes the two albums recorded for Victor in the mid-fifties. 'West of the Moon' contains some superb arrangements by Ralph Burns and Lee is in fine voice throughout. Three backing bands are used. There is a group with strings,, reeds and rhythm. For the second, the strings are omitted and a fine brass section - including Nick Travis and Ubie Green - added. The final group is a small jazz combo with Billy Butterfield, Lou McGarity, and Peanuts Hucko contributing some fine playing. A thoroughly enjoyable album.
'A Touch of the Blues' completes this fine set. Arrangements here are by Bill Finegan and Al Cohn and the band is led by Billy Butterfield. Lee is again in top form and the twelve tracks make a delightful programme. I especially enjoyed 'Land of Sky Blue Water', 'Ace in the Hole' and 'Blues in my Heart' but the rest are excellent as well.
The whole anthology makes a valuable addition to the catalogue. Highly recommended to all lovers of fine singing.
Lee Wiley was one of the most distinctive singers of the American songbook and these four albums are a great bargain. These are all fine sets, though many feel that "Night in Manhattan" is her definitive statement - it really is a wonderful album with some beautiful trumpet work from Bobby Hackett and caressing strings. "West of the Moon" is also a splendid record, with fabulous Ralph Burns arrangements.
Wiley's signature sound is a sort of sensual, velvety drawl with which she coaxes all sorts of emotions out if lyrics. In this regard it is possible to classify her in the great chanteuse tradition of Mabel Mercer; but Wiley is also very much a jazz singer: her behind-the-beat phrasing and subtle swing are ever present. In short she represents a wonderful midway between jazz and cabaret, with unerring musicality and understatement. Great to have this steal of a complication.
Just when you thought we might not be getting much more music to shout about Avid release this latest 2Cd set comprising a wonderful mix of songbook material. Lee Wiley is a name known to jazz vocal enthusiasts and this set will be a most welcome release. The sound transfers are very good indeed and the price is as they say "a snip" so "snap it up". My favourite performances are Street of Dreams & A Hundred Years from Today.
Lee Wiley first came to prominence in the thirties, but she apparently didn't record a lot of music before the fifties. This compilation contains all the tracks from four of her albums, plus two tracks from a multi-artist album that didn't appear on any of the other four.
The booklet notes are confusing, probably not helped by one of the albums featuring songs by two composers (Vincent Youmans and Irving Berlin) whose work also appears on another album featured here. The notes tell you that the album devoted entirely to Vincent Youmans and Irving Berlin contains six songs by one and four by the other. In fact, they are split evenly, but they are both represented by eight tracks in total within the compilation. Not that it matters; more significant is that Kee did not simply record the most obvious tracks, although some of those are here. Some less obvious songs are included too. Even among the obvious songs, I noticed at least one surprise - the start of Tea for two. I don't remember hearing that before, although I haven't heard many different versions of the song, but the song eventually becomes familiar.
This is a magnificent collection by Lee Wiley, who eventually died of cancer in 1975 aged just 67. While this collection is my first of her music, I hope there's plenty more available, because I'd like to hear it.
From `Night In Manhattan'
1. Manhattan 2. I've Got A Crush On You 3. A Ghost Of A Chance 4. Oh! Look At Me Now 5. How Deep Is The Ocean 6. Time On My Hands 7. Street Of Dreams 8. A Woman's Intuition 9. Sugar 10. Any Time, Any Day, Anywhere 11. Soft Lights And Sweet Music 12. More Than You Know
From `Lee Wiley Sings Vincent Youmans & Irving Berlin'
13. Tea For Two 14. Sometimes I'm Happy 15. Rise `n' Shine 16. Should I Be Sweet? 17. Keepin' Myself For You 18. Why, Oh, Why? 19. Some Sunny Day 20. I Got Lost In His Arms 21. Heat Wave 22. Fools Fall In Love 23. How Many Times 24. Supper Time
From The Wide, Wide World Of Jazz (a multi-artist album; these were the only Lee Wiley tracks)
25. Stars Fell On Alabama 26. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans
From `West Of The Moon'
1. You're A Sweetheart 2. This Is New 3. You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby 4. Who Can I Turn To Now? 5. My Ideal 6. Can't Get Out Of This Mood 7. East Of The Sun (West Of The Moon) 8. I Left My Sugar Standing In The Rain 9. Moonstruck 10. Limehouse Blues 11. As Time Goes By 12. Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now
From `A Touch Of The Blues'
13. The Memphis Blues 14. From The Land Of The Sky Blue Water 15. The Ace In The Hole 16. Someday You'll Be Sorry 17. My Melancholy Baby 18. A Hundred Years From Today 19. Blues In My Heart 20. Maybe You'll Be There 21. Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea 22. I Don't Want To Walk Without You 23. Make Believe 24. A Touch Of The Blues
Lee Wiley (1908 – 1975) was influenced by Ethel Waters and Mildred Bailey with her warm, husky and sensual vocal style ideally suited to the standards of The Great American Songbook. Indeed she was one of the first singers to record sets of songs dedicated to particular composers way ahead of Ella’s similarly-themed triumphs of the mid-Fifties onward. Surprisingly, appreciation of Lee’s individuality has been somewhat limited; maybe because her final album was recorded during the late Fifties when less distinguished vocalists maintained their careers beyond this period. It’s likely Lee’s somewhat turbulent private life and a degree of ill-health proved too much a barrier with performing and recording, but it’s fair to say, her name is now mentioned when discussing the merits of girl singers. Thanks to the expanded format of CD’s, there are many collections dedicated to her talent and Avid’s usual good sense in reissuing classic albums as budget-priced two-disc sets has now turned the spotlight on Lee with this quartet of Fifties material.
NIGHT IN MANHATTAN, recorded in late 1951 with either Bobby Hackett, Joe Bushkin & His Swinging Strings or Stan Freeman and Cy Walter providing accompaniment is a feast of songs like the appropriate MANHATTAN plus I’VE GOT A CRUSH ON YOU, STREET OF DREAMS and MORE THAN YOU KNOW amongst the choices. In songbook mode, the second album, LEE WILEY SINGS VINCENT YOUMANS & IRVING BERLIN, recorded during the same time-frame, gives space for half a dozen songs dedicated to each songwriter with the familiar TEA FOR TWO and SOMETIMES I’M HAPPY joined by the lesser-known RISE ‘N’ SHINE and SHOULD I BE SWEET by the former; I GOT LOST IN HIS ARMS and HEAT WAVE heading the rarer HOW MANY TIMES? and FOOLS FALL IN LOVE from the latter’s extensive catalogue. Accompanied by the piano duo Stan Freeman and Cy Walter. In 1956, Lee had the big-band Ralph Burns and his Orchestra for her versions of a dozen superior numbers for WEST OF THE MOON and amongst the goodies THIS IS NEW, MY IDEAL, AS TIME GOES BY and EAST OF THE SUN with the latter’s lyrics providing the album’s title. A TOUCH OF THE BLUES, recorded the following year, had all-star musicians like Billy Butterfield in the backing line-up with Bill Finegan and Al Cohn supplying arrangements for MAYBE YOU’LL BE THERE, BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, MAKE BELIEVE. Lee’s vocals are spot-on with vocal shade and light setting the required mood. To fill remaining track space, Lee’s only songs (STARS FELL ON ALABAMA and DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS?) recorded for a 1956 compilation album THE WIDE WIDE WORLD OF JAZZ are usefully included.
This is an essential collection which conveys just how well Lee Wiley could invest every song with true meaning and innate musicality and in Avid‘s usual fashion, the original album notes and artwork is reproduced with digital remastering ensuring excellent sound quality.
I have been an admirer of Lee Wiley for many years and West Of The Moon is my favorite album so when this compilation became available I jumped at the chance to replace my ancient copy. The other albums on this compilation are great but from the opening track You're A Sweetheart on West Of The Moon you know you''re in for something special and it does not disappoint. To get four albums by one of the truly great vocalists at this price is in my opinion unbeatable value.
This is a 2-CD set, the first of which includes two Columbia LPs, namely “Night In Manhattan” with Bobby Hackett and Joe Bushkin amongst others, and the Vincent Youmans/Irving Berlin album. The latter was originally issued as two separate 10” LPs, with 8 tracks apiece, but two tracks from each was sacrificed in order to combine the two onto a 12” LP, on which this reissue is based. By way of compensation, the first CD is completed by the two tracks Lee contributed to an obscure RCA Victor LP “Dave Garroway Presents the Wide, Wide World of Jazz” on which she was accompanied by Deane Kincaide’s Dixieland Band. The second CD comprises two RCA LPs, namely “West Of The Moon” with Ralph Burns & his Orchestra, and “A Touch Of The Blues” with Billy Butterfield & his Orchestra, the latter in stereo. It’s a fantastic bargain; grab it while you can.