The Essential Gene Autry
This double-CD Gene Autry compilation, though impressive on a sonic level, and reasonably full, isn't quite perfect. Oh, it covers all of the basics and even gives some play to aspects of Autry such as his blues singing, represented by "Dallas County Jail Blues" and "T.B. Blues," that usually isn't familiar to listeners whose knowledge is limited to the hits such as "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine," "Back in the Saddle Again," "South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)," or "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." And it works in such personally and musically expressive tracks as "The Death of Jimmie Rodgers," as well. And the annotation is also nice and full, as far as any of it goes in this Sony Music series. Yet, somehow, they managed to miss some pretty essential songs here, including Autry's version of "Blueberry Hill," which was a hit more than a decade before Fats Domino cut the song and would constitute a major revelation for anyone under the age of 50 who hears this set. In its defense, the sound is excellent, much of the material transferred from original metal parts and given first-class treatment, though even that is sort of second-hand -- this set utilizes the same masters prepared by ace reissue producer Nick Shaffran for an even better Autry three-CD reissue done for mail-order release.