Peter Dawson: The Floral Dance - His 49 Finest 1925 -1939

Australian bass-baritone Peter Dawson (1882-1961) is numbered among the most illustrious of all recording artists. He was one of the most prolific of all time, selling, it is estimated, more than 25 million 78 records, both under his own name and under at least 20 aliases. The possessor of a magnificent, flexible voice and perfect diction – tailor-made for recording – he was able to sing anything from parlour ballads to grand opera. His recording career spanned over half a century, from his first in 1904 to his last in 1958.

Sharing the title of Dawson’s most famous title, The Floral Dance is Retrospective’s selection of the cream of his finest work, a marvellous cross-section of 49 classics. All the great favourites are here, such as Old Father Thames, the Australian ‘national anthem’ Waltzing Matilda, and his own Kipling song Boots. Then there are wide ranging examples from each category of his huge repertoire. From the ‘classical’ artist we hear the Toreador’s Song from Carmen and Elgar’s Speak, Music. Military and sea songs include When The Sergeant-Major’s On Parade and Drake’s Drum. He also had a winning way in sentimental songs such as Roses Of Picardy and I’ll Walk Beside You, and from the vogue for romanticised oriental subjects there are On The Road To Mandalay and Pale Hands I Love, and the much-loved Cobber’s Song. Operetta is featured in such popular numbers as The Yeomen Of England and A Bachelor Gay. And then of course there are those irresistible Irish songs: Kerry Dance and Phil The Fluter’s Ball.

This album truly expresses the warm-hearted vocal genius of the phenomenal Peter Dawson.

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Peter Dawson is a popular subject for reissue, but his discography is enormous, and given his propensity to record under a pseudonym or two, I think it unlikely that we’ll ever have a truly comprehensive stable of reissues. What record companies have largely done is to group his recordings schematically into things like Empire songs, or ballads, and art-songs, or his Handel records, and this has served well enough as an entrée. Retrospective has decided to go for the lighter element of his repertoire, perfectly consistent with their reissuing priorities. Thus, no Handel, or Verdi.

One thing this company likes doing is presenting an artist’s Greatest Hit, out sequence, as an opening number. And that is what happens here, with The Floral Dance, made in May 1934 with an orchestra directed by the versatile Clifford Greenwood. Then we backtrack to December 1925 and move forward until the final session in April 1939. The astute reader can therefore also note that there are no acoustics, and we don’t delve into the early days of Dawson’s extraordinary career on disc and cylinder, which ran from 1904 to 1955. This is the ‘electric’ Dawson.

Popular items like Waltzing Matilda, Bless this House, Roses of Picardy, and On the Road to Mandalay ensure that there is a spread of his best-known items. The sleeve notes are helpful and very readable and the transfers smooth and efficient. Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb

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