The Centennial Anthology

by: Bing Crosby

In 2006, singer Athan Maroulis assembled at least two Bing Crosby collections for Cleopatra Records. One was The Essentials (a bare-bones, 37-minute budget CD released on Cleopatra's Fantastic Price label) and the more generous two-disc set The Centennial Anthology (which Cleopatra released on Master Classics). Both were recorded in the early '30s, and all 12 of the selections on The Essentials are also on this two-disc set (which contains an 18-track, 57-minute audio CD as well as a DVD). The DVD offers four rare black-and-white short films (all of them musicals/comedies) that starred Crosby and were directed by Mack Sennett, who is best known for his silent comedies but made his share of talkies in the early '30s. The Sennett material, although cute and entertaining, will mainly be of interest to collectors, historians and Crosby's hardcore fans. But the gems on disc one (the audio CD) are essential listening even if one has only a casual interest in traditional pop. One of the most important innovators of the 20th century, Crosby was a huge influence on Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Vic Damone, Nat King Cole, Art Lund, Johnny Mercer and countless others -- and the 1931 recordings on the audio disc are downright seminal. Listening to Crosby's definitive recordings of "Stardust," "Out of Nowhere," and other gems on disc one, there is no doubt where all of the abovementioned crooners got so much of their inspiration. The Essentials isn't a bad deal for casual listeners, but given how much great material Crosby recorded in the early '30s, traditional pop enthusiasts would do well to dig a bit deeper and splurge on The Centennial Anthology instead. [A Deluxe Edition of the CD was also released.] ~ Alex Henderson

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