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Music Review: Bing Crosby – Bing On Broadway, On The Sentimental Side (Deluxe Edition)

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The excellent job Collector’s Choice have done in reissuing the Bing Crosby catalog continues with these two sets of rare material. "Rare” is an understatement in the case of On The Sentimental Side. This is an album that was recorded in 1962, and never released. Opinions vary as to the reasons it sat in Bing’s archives all these years. But one thing is certain, it is one of the most unusual collection of songs in his vast oeuvre.

On The Sentimental Side was a response to the popular Sing Along With Mitch series by Mitch Miller. In 1960, Crosby released the first of his three Join Bing And Sing albums. On The Sentimental Side was originally titled On The Happy Side. It had been abandoned midway through the mixing process, and the tapes have lain dormant all these years. The liner notes detail the fascinating story of the discovery of these sessions, and how everything was finally properly synched and mixed to produce this obscure bit of Crosby history.

As for the music, this one is for the hardcore Bing Crosby fan. The original album was to contain 12 two-song medleys. This Deluxe Edition also includes five bonus cuts. You get the idea of what the project was all about from the very first track, “My Bonnie” / “The Band Played On.” Other combinations include “Tom Dooley” / “The Old Gray Mare,” and “Beautiful Dreamer” / “The Last Rose Of Summer.” Bing’s voice sounds great (as usual), but the arrangements are pretty old-fashioned. Even the normally reverent tone of the booklet lifts on this one, describing the music as “extremely corny.”

Far more interesting to me is Bing On Broadway, a compilation of 19 tunes that were first made famous on the Great White Way. They were all recorded in the years 1954-56. The resulting tracks were originally broadcast on the CBS radio program, The Bing Crosby Show — and are collected here for the very first time.

What makes this anthology so unique is the small band format that was utilized. All but two of the songs were recorded with Buddy Cole and His Trio. Hearing Bing in this context is revelatory. His powerful baritone is given the ultimate showcase in this intimate setting, and sounds incredible.

An early highlight is “Carolina In The Morning,” which swings most convincingly, as does “Ain’t Misbehavin'.” The more traditionally arranged “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” was recorded with John Trotter and His Orchestra — and does contain some strings. It is still a great version though.

“Come Rain Or Come Shine” is heartbreakingly beautiful. It reminds me of Frank Sinatra doing “One More For My Baby (And One More For The Road).” Bing Crosby doing what Sinatra called “saloon songs” is just a remarkable way to hear him. I really wish he had fully embraced this direction, at least for a couple of albums.

The collaboration between record label Collector’s Choice, and the Bing Crosby family has once again produced some remarkable results with these CDs. They are a great way to discover, or rediscover this one of a kind vocalist.

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