Songs of Harry Warren: Lullaby of Broadway & Hollywood - His 51 Finest 1922-1957
The very best of Harry Warren (1893-1981) is presented in a double CD set for a magnificent addition, the tenth, to Retrospective’s invaluable series devoted to the great songwriters of the last century. After penning some of the 20s’ most iconic tunes, such as I Love My Baby and Pasadena, Warren lit the touch paper for the emerging Hollywood movie industry with 42nd Street in 1933, beginning a line of Busby Berkeley spectaculars and other musicals filled with such great songs as I Only Have Eyes For You, Lullaby Of Broadway, Jeepers Creepers, You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, September In The Rain and I’ll String Along With You. Then came the Glenn Miller evergreens Chattanooga Choo-Choo, I’ve Gotta Gal In Kalamazoo and so on, and wartime classics like You’ll Never Know – a phenomenal spread of hits from 1922 to 1957.
As with each of the songwriter issues, the roster of artists is phenomenal, chosen (except for the opening Rose Of The Rio Grande) from singers of the time of each song’s publication. They include Warren’s great champions Dick Powell and Bing Crosby, alongside Dick Haymes, The Boswell Sisters, Fred Waring, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Vera Lynn, Fred Astaire and many others.
Another CD of a specific composer's songs, this time from Retrospective, who are old hands at this sort of thing. Harry Warren often seems to be omitted from the usual list of GAS songwriters, which is strange as he contributed a vast number of classic songs over the thirty five year period covered by this 51 track compilation, which underlines the fact with some choice selections. His earliest successes were TIn Pan Alley hits like PASADENA (the Al Jolson version from 1924 is featured here) and later for Broadway revues but it was his move to Hollywood and his collaborations with lyricist Al Dubin that saw his biggest successes with songs for 'Forty Second Street', 'Gold Diggers of 1933' and 'Dames' to mention just three. The set includes contemporary versions of some of the songs from these films such as The Boswell Sisters with FORTY SECOND STREET and SHUFFLE OFF TO BUFFALO and Crosby with YOU'RE GETTING TO BE A HABIT WITH ME. Dick Powell contributes THE SHADOW WALTZ, I'VE GOT TO SING A TORCH SONG and I'LL STRING ALONG WITH YOU while Hutch weighs in with I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU. The string of hits continued throughout the 30s and 40s taking in the Glenn Miller films 'Sun Valley Serenade' and 'Orchestra Wives' with CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO, AT LAST, I'VE GOT A GAL IN KALAMAZOO and SERENADE IN BLUE featured and the set concludes with a couple of big hits from the fifties in the shape of THAT'S AMORE (Dean Martin) and AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (Vic Damone) which is a pretty good way to bow out. InTune Magazine
This compilation of hit songs by Harry Warren, from his first, in 1922, Rose Of The Rio Grande, to the last, An Affair To Remember, in 1957, reminds us of several things, not least the sheer longevity of this composer's genius. Very few song-writers can outlive their particular age, let alone continue to adapt and produce original material decade after decade. It is one of those cliches that highly creative people burn so bright that they consume themselves. This one didn't! His light shone brighter as the years passed by.
The Jazz aficionado will recognise so many items he associates with the extended canon of his music, songs which originally appeared in shows or films or were recorded by big white bands One Sweet Letter From You, for instance, was first recorded in 1927 by Ted Lewis - once (erroneously) considered to be the purveyor par excellence of Hot Jazz. Happily the version here is by the great Charleston Chasers, Red Nichols, Miff Mole, Jimmy Dorsey etal. Unfortunately, it is marred by the stodgy vocals of 'Miss America', Kate Smith, she of the squeaking contralto and l total lack of swing. (Personally, I'd much prefer sweet Annette Hanshaw's simpler version, of the same year, with her strumming on her ukulele, accompanied by Irving Brodsky on piano.)
From Warren's pen, at the other end of the scale, comes Dean Martin's chart-topper of the Coronation year, That's Amore, a great song with lyrics by Liverpool-born jack Brooks, who also supplied the words for Hoagy's Ole Buttermilk Sky. In a career spanning four decades, Warren wrote more than 800 songs, with many different lyricists (including Mack Gordon as well as those mentioned elsewhere) and was perhaps the most prolific composer for the screen, his work having featured in over 300 films. In addition to the hits on these CDs, he also wrote such as / Only Have Eyes For You, You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby (with Johnny Mercer), / Know Why And So Do You, You May Not Be An Angel But I'll String Along With You, in fact standards by the score, picking up all manner of showbizzy gongs along the way for best film scores and best songs. One of eleven children of Italian immigrants, he had a long life - from 1893 to 1981 - and was one of the world's blessed, a rare genius who lived to fulfil all his talent. The declared purpose of this compilation is to reflect contemporary tin pan alley (Broadway and Hollywood) and not how his music has been embraced by the Jazz fraternity, yet there is much here for the Jazz-lover. "Our love affair" as Vie Damone sang, "is a wondrous thing, that we'll rejoice in remembering. Our love was born with our first embrace and the page was torn out of time and space." Simple words by Harold Adamson and Leo McCarey, almost trite really, yet Harry Warren made them shine like pure poetry! Just Jazz