In 1943, you had popular movies like Ox-Bow Incident, The Song of Bernadette, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Sahara and Watch on the Rhine. The airwaves were dominated by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Harry James, Benny Goodman, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. And we were winning a war with a president that we respected. Where did we go wrong?

This 4 disc set covers, in chronological order, the popular tunes from 1943, beginning with Kay Kyser’s “Can’t Get Out of This Mood” and Benny Goodman’s “Why Don’t You Do Right?” with Peggy Lee, and closing the year out with Bing Crosby’s “All Be Home For Christmas.” In between, you get some of the greatest voices of all time. A young Frank Sinatra doing
It’s Always You” with Tommy Dorsey,  “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” and the dramatic “All Or Nothing at All,” the golden-toned Bingster in an insouciant mood on “Constantly”  and ”People Will Say We’re In Love” and Vaughan Monroe going bel canto on “Let’s Get Lost.” Forgotten today, the big toned baritones  were the most popular male vocalists, with Bob Eberle teaming with Jimmy Dorsey on “Let’s Get Lost” and Dick Haymes crooning on “I Never Mention Your Name.” Every big band had a “canary” as well, and besides Lee, the guys also went for Dinah Shore (“Why Don’t You Fall In Love With Me?”), Helen Forrest (“I Heard You Cried Last Night”) and Helen O’Connell (“Brazil”). Boogie woogie and swing were at their zenith, and the “hot” bands delivered, as on Benny Goodman’s “Mission to Moscow” and Freddie Slacks’ “RIffette” as well as some smoking vocals like Bing and the Andrews Sisters on “Pistol Packin’ Mama.”

Not only were singers the idols of teens, but so were musicians. Harry James was the cock of the walk, and punches like Floyd Patterson on “I’ve Heard That Song Before” while Dorsey swings his heart out on “Boogie Woogie” and Duke Ellington swoons on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and the Ink Spots do a glorious vocal read of it as well.

Even the kitschy songs have a charm all their own, but the thing you’re going to take away from this boxed set is the consistently high quality of the art. Every bar had a bounce, and each song had a melody that you’d keep whistling for days. Can we say the same about today’s music?


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