It's Easy to Remember
The European copyright law on recordings, which cuts off after only 50 years, is responsible for many shoddy compilations of the work of vintage artists, scratchy 78s from someone's collection transferred to disc and put out with little or no concern for quality. But it also allows for more respectable efforts, such as the series of four-CD box sets assembled by England's Proper Records. Raiding the catalogs of Sony, BMG, and Universal (i.e., remastering old records now in the vaults of these majors), Proper has assembled this five-hour, 99-track survey of Bing Crosby's recording career that stretches from his first waxing in 1926 to a couple of covers of songs from Guys and Dolls in 1950. That career was less than half over at this legally mandated cutoff point, but Crosby was really at his peak in the '30s and '40s, and his '20s recordings, with Paul Whiteman's Orchestra and others, are interesting juvenilia. Included here are 32 of the record-setting 36 number one singles credited to Crosby by Billboard chart researcher Joel Whitburn (plus one with Duke Ellington and two with the Andrews Sisters), along with 39 other chart records and 25 well-chosen non-chart songs that include compositions by Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, DeSylva, Brown & Henderson, Walter Donaldson, Frank Loesser, George & Ira Gershwin, W.C. Handy, Jerome Kern, and Vincent Youmans and duets with Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Mary Martin, and Lee Wiley, among others, all in chronological order. The sound isn't as good as it probably would have been if the original masters had been used, but it isn't bad, and the set is well-annotated with a reasonable essay by compiler Stan Britt and a discography. As a result, It's Easy to Remember bears comparison with the "official" Crosby box sets and exceeds them in some respects.