Frank Crumit: A Gay Caballero, Singer & Entertainer - His 25 Finest 1925-1935

Always a great favourite, especially in the UK, the inimitable Frank Crumit (1889-1943) performs all his best-loved comic songs on one well-filled CD. A jocular and inventive singer and writer of comic novelties, the American Crumit was a leading figure in stage, radio and recorded entertainment in the 20s and 30s. Especially popular for his sprightly and humorous renderings, he had a pleasant, warm-hearted nature that came through on his recordings, where his friendly voice and lively accompaniments to catchy tunes have given a lasting quality. Surprisingly, he was even more famous in Britain than in his native USA. He is credited with 31 ‘chart hits’ from 1920 to 1929.

Retrospective’s A Gay Caballero presents the finest single CD selection of Crumit’s happy material available. All his best-known numbers are here. Comic classics such as A Gay Caballero (in the technically superior 1934 version), The Song Of The Prune and The Insurance Salesman still raise a smile, and of course there’s his most famous epic, Abdul Abulbul Amir. He had a winning way too with many of the Charleston-flavoured numbers of the day – Crazy Words, Crazy Tune, Ukulele Lady etc. – and even standards like Mountain Greenery or ’S Wonderful emerge fresh as paint. There is also a charming duet with his wife Julia Sanderson, Would You Like To Take A Walk?, performing as “The Singing Sweethearts”.

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The songwriter and singing actor Frank Crumit worked his way up the Vaudeville hierarchy ended up with over 250 78s to his name in his heyday between 1919 and 1941. His songs reflect the particularities of American life and are put across with the relish of a real raconteur.

He takes I’m Sitting on Top of the World and sings it straight with the piano backing of Frank Banta before, half-way through, getting out his uke to typically vigorous effect.

He latched onto the genius of Rodgers and Hart early – The Girl Friend and Mountain Greenery, specifically – and was a fine Gershwin singing actor, as S’Wonderful shows but could dust down a traditional favourite too, as well as raising a smile with his tales of over-eating beauties or diving head-first into the vo do de oh do of Crazy Words, Crazy Tune.
With sympathetic transfers and notes this single disc selection can be warmly recommended.

Jonathan Woolf, Musicweb-international

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