The title pretty much says it all. Collected here on this two-disc set are 40 essential songs that illustrate the musical career of Gene Autry. The style of his songs slightly changes over the years, starting in the 1930s with the twangy hillbilly music that first brought him notoriety to the more polished country-pop of the ‘40s that solidified his star status and concluding with children’s songs and holidays classics that became his focus before his retirement from show business.
The first disc covers 1931-42 while disc two covers 1942-51; however the tracks aren’t in chronological order.
The album is a wonderful, comprehensive collection that includes many classic country & western songs that have become ingrained into American culture: “South Of The Border,” “Deep In The Heart Of Texas,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Home On The Range,” “Jingle Jangle Jingle.”
Autry’s first hit, “That Silver-Haired Daddy Of Mine,” eventually sold a million copies and earned him the first gold record ever awarded. Also appearing is the song that launched his career as the first singing cowboy movie star; “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” – also a million-seller – from the film of the same name.
Twelve of the songs in this set were written or co-written by Autry, such as his theme song, “Back in the Saddle Again,” from his CBS Radio program Melody Ranch and the Christmas classic “Here Come Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane).” He also covers a number of popular songwriters. He sings Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene,” Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In” and Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” taking the essence of each song and making it his own.
Autry became a children’s favorite with his Western movies and television shows. He acknowledges them at the beginning of “On Top Of Old Smokey” and “Old Chisholm Trail” by saying “Hello” to the boys and girls listening.
The Essential Gene Autry is a great set songs by a 20th century American legend in the world of entertainment. He is the only man to have been awarded five stars on the Hollywood Walk of fame and this collection is a worthy testament to his singing talents. It is a worthy addition to any music library.