The Essential Collection [West End]
Although she is chiefly known for her movie career, which took off in the late 1950s, and pop songs like "Secret Love" and "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" she recorded concurrently with her screen success, Doris Day was a consummate big band vocalist in the '40s, and her musical legacy as a singer is ultimately based on those recordings, which will startle and amaze those who are only familiar with her later pop fare. This generous two-disc, 49-track Essential Collection divides things into one disc of her years singing with Les Brown & His Orchestra and a second disc of her subsequent solo recordings, although it stops well short of her later pop material. Day sang with Brown's band from 1939 until the end of 1946, and was a signature part of swing hits like "Sentimental Journey" and "My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time," both of which are included in this set. Another unexpected gem from this period that shows up here is a sweet big-band version of the traditional ballad "Barbara Allen," which clearly shows Day could handle a wide range of material and still make it feel like it all came from the same bolt of cloth. Make no mistake, she could sing, and she came from the first generation of singers to truly understand the nuance of singing on studio microphones, which gives her vocals depth, clarity, and an uncommon presence. The solo material (Day left Brown and struck off on her own in 1947) on disc two is equally as impressive, with Day giving songs like "It's Magic," "It Takes Time," and "I've Only Myself to Blame" a kind of hushed, bright intimacy that doesn't happen by accident. For those only familiar with her latter day work as a movie actor and sometime pop singer, this collection is eye-opening.