The Essentials

by: Bing Crosby

In 1931, Bing Crosby's position in the music world was a lot like that of Charlie "Bird" Parker in the late '40s, the Beatles in the mid-'60s or Nirvana in 1992 and 1993; Crosby had recently caused a major stylistic upheaval, and the genie was clearly out of the bottle whether folks liked it or not. There were, in 1931, some naysayers who didn't appreciate the smooth, polished, jazz-influenced perspective that Crosby brought to traditional pop; they longed for the overblown, quasi-operatic belting of Rudy ValleƩ, Al Jolson, Billy Murray, and Henry Burr (aka Irving Gillette). But those naysayers certainly didn't prevent Crosby from burning up the pop charts in 1931, the year in which all 12 of the tracks on The Essentials (a best-of disc released in 2006) were recorded. Given how long a career Crosby had, some might wonder whether a true best-of would focus on one year exclusively. But 1931 was an important and highly productive year for him, and most of the recordings on this budget CD are, in fact, essential; the word essential easily describes the seminal crooner's famous 1931 performances of "Stardust," "Out of Nowhere," and "Goodnight Sweetheart," as well as "Just a Gigolo," "I Surrender, Dear," "Sweet and Lovely," and "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams." Clocking in at 37 minutes, The Essentials isn't terribly generous -- and while all of the material is excellent, this release is far from the last word on Crosby in the early '30s. But for novices, The Essentials offers a consistently rewarding, if brief, summation of Crosby in 1931. ~ Alex Henderson

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