BEFORE FRANK, THERE WAS…Bing Crosby: Bing Sings the Great American Songbook, Bing Sings the Sinatra Songbook, Bing in Dixieland

If you’re a fan of pure singing, no attitude, no glitz, just a perfect sense of time, swing and style, it’s hard to find someone better than the gent who essentially started the genre, namely Der Bingster, aka Bing Crosby. He and Louis Armstrong set the standard for male singers from the 20s to the late 40s when a guy named Frank Sinatra took the baton. Still, Crosby kept crooning through the 70s, never releasing anything that wasn’t classy and insouciant.  

Universal is releasing a bucket load of albums, some of which were actually released back in the day, others being clever thematic compilations from his various shows.

Bing Sings the Great American Songbook consists of material that Crosby recorded on his CBS radio programs back in the mid 50s. Backed by Buddy Cole/key and his trio of Vince Terri/g, Don Whitaker/dr and Nick Fatool/dr, Crosby is at his most intimately relaxed on these sessions as he avoids the high production or Dixieland sounds of most of his other sessions. His mellifluous baritone as warm and cozy on material like “Manhattan” and “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan,” while the depth of his range on “Ol’ Man River” is startling. This one disc is culled from a multi-disc box set from Mosaic records, so if you want to avoid forking over a C note plus, this is a great  place to hear Crosby in a rare environment.

Bing Sings the Sinatra Songbook culls material Crosby recorded mostly from The Bing Crosby Show for General Electric in Palm Springs, CA and it has him in various settings ranging from full orchestras to the Buddy Cole band. He does some stellar versions of material associated with Ol’ Blue Eyes, holding his own with takes of “Young at Heart” and “The Tender Trap.” Best of all is a three song medley with Sinatra himself, where they not only trade lines on the likes of “September Song” and “As Time Goes By” but they blend them together every now and then for a heavenly sauce of baritone bliss. What a treat!!!

Bing in Dixieland is a natural choice, sing Crosby was there with Bix, Tram and all the rest back in the day. The bands vary from quartets to swinging combos, with all stars like Nick Fatool, Red Nichols and Matty Matlock showing up for hopping takes of “Muskrat Ramble,” “Everybody Loves My Baby”  and “Margie.” A couple bonus delights include Ella Fitzgerald showing up for a stellar take of “Memphis Blues” and Louis Armstrong and His All Stars tearing down the house with Bing on a smoking “Now You Has Jazz.”  Guaranteed to put a smile on that face.

Universal Music

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