Over a span of about 12 years beginning in 1990, Bear Family reissued a veritable flood of Frankie Laine recordings. Several single-volume compact discs were eventually followed by three massive box sets containing hundreds of examples of his hormonally anchored artistry. I Believe, a 163-track gunboat-sized anthology, was released in 2001, six years prior to his passing in 2007 at the age of 93. Especially in light of his tireless work as a civil rights activist during the 1950s and '60s, it is clear that Laine was a much deeper individual than his presentational veneer might at first imply. Chicago-born Sicilian-American vocalist Francesco Paolo LoVecchio, commonly known as Frankie Laine, was one of his country's definitive interpreters of popular song during the 1950s. The son of Al Capone's barber and a product of a healthy multicultural environment, he named Vaudeville's Al Jolson, Depression era crooner Gene Austin, operatic archetype Enrico Caruso, and blues empress Bessie Smith as primary influences. Boosted into show business by Hoagy Carmichael, Laine was also heavily inspired by Nat King Cole and the hard hitting dance-inducing style pegged by the recording industry as Rhythm & Blues. Laine's reputation would ultimately be wrapped up in well-hung cowboy & western motifs, which are mingled on this mammoth collection with sentimental hits, jazz standards, gospel-oriented songs (a mode he would revisit in 1969 with "Dammit Isn't God's Last Name"), and the upbeat topical novelties that perfectly suited his penchant for brusque, vigorous delivery. The mannered, sometimes caricatured intensity of his act was supported by instrumentalists whose collective experience touched upon many decades of stylistic evolution, from early blues, hot dance music and swing to bop, R&B and the rise of rock & roll. Additional vocalists heard on this collection are the Starlighters, the Mellomen, the Four Lads, the Norman Luboff Choir, Jo Stafford, and Doris Day. Although he clearly enjoyed putting across romantic melodies, Laine is in his prime element with testosterone-stoked chunks of Americana like "High Noon," "Rawhide," "Bullwhip," "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," "Cool Water," and "Sixteen Tons." He tosses off "Drill Ye Tarriers Drill," "Hawkeye," "Hummingbird," "Moby Dick," "Robin Hood," "Wa-Hoo!," "Ticky Ticky Tick," and "Champion the Wonder Horse" unflinchingly. But it is "How Lovely Cooks the Meat," sung as an episodic duet with Doris Day, that wins the weirdest song award in this or any other Frankie Laine retrospective. Alternating between his galloping-home gavotte and her dreamily dysfunctional housewife vignette, the song tells a story of salivating anticipation and a steak charred into near-inedibility by Doris' heavily sweetened ineptitude. In a bold example of psychosexual subtext recast in high relief, Laine's final chorus exchanges the word "wife" for "meat."