Remembered mostly for his 1958 number one hit "It's All in the Game," Tommy Edwards recorded prolifically for MGM throughout the 1950s and early '60s. This two-CD compilation concentrates on his period of highest visibility and commercial success, containing four albums he released on the label between 1958 and 1960, as well as ten tracks that appeared on singles in the same years. With "It's All in the Game" (which leads off this anthology), Edwards and MGM found an approach that paid off with one of the biggest pop hits of the era, adding just enough early rock & roll -- light electric guitar and drums, insistent piano triplets, doo wop-influenced backing vocals -- to a ballad by a pop singer to make him sound contemporary. This was an approach MGM hammered on repeatedly in its immediate aftermath, a strategy that makes such a lengthy collection -- particularly the first disc -- tough to endure all at once. The insistent midtempo beats are relentless, often in conjunction with updated standards. Edwards was at his core a pop balladeer with a touch of jazz, and not one who owed much to blues or R&B, let alone rock & roll, which can make his style sound dated and contrived in some respects. He did break out of the rigid confines of this formula to some degree on the 1960 releases on disc two, heading toward a more middle of the road, orchestrated direction on some sides, and a slightly more swinging jazz one on others (particularly on the Step Out Singing
album). Be aware that Edwards recorded quite a bit of additional material for MGM before and after 1958-1960 (and for some other labels before and after his lengthy MGM tenure), including (in 1951) his first version of "It's All in the Game," which made the Top 20. This compilation extensively covers his peak period of popularity, however, including the other hits "Love Is All We Need," "Please Love Me Forever" (predating Bobby Vinton
's much bigger hit with the same song almost a decade later), "Please Mr. Sun," "My Melancholy Baby," and "I Really Don't Want to Know," along with a few other lower-charting singles. Most listeners are better off with a single-disc release concentrating on those hits, however.