The War and Postwar Years
Although George Formby's biggest hits were associated with his pre-World War II work, one can say with some justification that his efforts at entertaining the troops and the Britons on the home front were truly his finest hour -- and as this four-CD set demonstrates, they weren't bad years musically, either. If the songs are sometimes a tiny bit uneven in quality or the formula seems a little flat on a track or two, one can chalk that up to the necessities of war; it's only in relation to his earlier work that some of the material here may seem slightly off. As it is, the material here gives one a perspective on the progress of the war that one won't find anywhere else in entertainment -- from "Imagine Me in the Maginot Line" at the outset of the fighting in France to the later material referring to the Blitz and the arrival of the Americans in England -- and, in fact, a better one than could have been had at the time. The material has been cleaned up to the point where the sound quality is impeccable on virtually all of it. How one feels about Formby is a question for the individual, but he was a consummate performer, whether he was doing some bawdy novelty tune or a ballad, and his virtues are much in evidence throughout. His postwar work was more limited in scope and depth, although he still had the ability to delight an audience, whether it was doing a parody of the "Third Man Theme" called "Come Hither with Your Zither" or the songs from the musical Zip Goes a Million. The set concludes with an array of alternate takes of Formby material going back to the 1930s. The annotation is thorough and also as polished as the sound, and the entire package will prove a delight even to casual fans who may well not know any of this material as well as his classic prewar material.