by: Bing Crosby

In his self-published book Bing Crosby's Commercial Recordings: From 78s to CDs, Crosby scholar F.B. Wiggins provides a list of "Bing's 40 Top Hits." Wiggins is also the compiler of this 40-track hits compilation, and unsurprisingly 32 of its selections are included on that list, plus two songs in different versions from the ones on the list. Wiggins' primary deviation from his list is forced upon him -- there are six tracks from the period 1931-1934 that are not owned by Universal Music and thus not available for a compilation on its Geffen imprint. One of them is "Please," for which Wiggins substitutes a 1940 re-recording. But he also takes the opportunity to augment this roughly chronological sequence of chart-toppers with some signature tunes, such as "When the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day," Crosby's radio theme song; "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral," an excellent example of his way with an Irish number, and early-'50s collaborations with Louis Armstrong ("Gone Fishin'") and Jane Wyman ("In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening"). These are some of the liveliest performances on the album. Indeed, Crosby always seems to be stimulated by a collaborator, whether it's Connee Boswell ("Bob White") or the Andrews Sisters ("Don't Fence Me In"). Perhaps supposing that one meeting with Boswell was enough, Wiggins drops their 1938 version of "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (included on his list of top hits) in favor of a 1947 one with Al Jolson. Still, the heart of this collection is the series of major hits Crosby scored in a variety of styles over a period of 20 years, as he excelled whether singing straight ballads, rhythm numbers, country & western-flavored material, Dixieland, or even Hawaiian songs. (In fact, he showed a particular affinity for music from the islands.) By Wiggins' count, Crosby made 2,000 studio recordings for commercial release over 52 years. This album contains only 40 of them from the two-decade height of his popularity. But it gives a good sense of what the rest were like and why Crosby was such a dominant singer in his era. ~ William Ruhlmann

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