The fifth volume of The History of Pop Radio, a 15-CD box set issued by Germany's History label, covers only a two-year period, while earlier volumes covered between three and eight years...
The fifth volume of The History of Pop Radio, a 15-CD box set issued by Germany's History label, covers only a two-year period, while earlier volumes covered between three and eight years each. But 1937-1938 was a fertile time in popular music, the heart of the swing era, when the music business was recovering from the Depression along with the rest of the world. Swing dominates the 20 selections here, with titles by bandleaders Guy Lombardo, Lionel Hampton, Hal Kemp (credited to singer Skinnay Ennis), Tommy Dorsey, Louis Prima, Larry Clinton (credited to singer Bea Wain), Artie Shaw, and Chick Webb (credited to singer Ella Fitzgerald). Several of the biggest hits of the period are included, among them Bei Mir Bist du Schön (in versions by both the Andrews Sisters and Lombardo), The Big Apple, Boo Hoo, Martha, and Begin the Beguine. But the collection only samples the major hits in order to leave room for various other material. There are swing classics such as Prima's Sing Sing Sing (in noticeably superior sound quality, as if transferred from a CD) and Fats Waller's 1937 jam session version of Honeysuckle Rose, featuring Dorsey and Bunny Berigan. German vocal group the Comedian Harmonists make their fourth and final appearance in the series. And, as usual, there is material from the movies. The album does not reveal the sources of the recordings, but some of the movie songs clearly are drawn directly from the soundtracks, such as Shirley Temple's In Our Little Wooden Shoes (from Heidi) and the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers vehicle Carefree's The Yam and Change Partners. (The album title notwithstanding, none of the tracks are Airchecks.) Thus, this is a varied sampler that gives a sense of the different kinds of popular music audiences were listening to on their record players and enjoying onscreen in 1937-1938. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi