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Peggy Lee & Benny Goodman

Complete Recordings 1941-1947

Format: CD   Release Date: 06/15/1999
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Although the whole collection ranges across six years, 32 of the 35 cuts on this two-CD set were recorded within a year of Peggy Lee's joining Benny Goodman's band, and the vast majority within a six month period through the winter of 1942. It is possible during that span to hear Lee evolve from a competent but scarcely confident vocalist ("Elmer's Tune") into a bold interpreter, equally adept at blues ("Blues in the Night"), ballads ("When the Roses Bloom Again"), rhythm numbers ("My Little Cousin," "I Threw a Kiss in the Ocean"), and everything in between. Aside from an improvement in sound over 1993's Best of the Big Bands: Benny Goodman Featuring Peggy Lee, the real beauty here is in the material that wasn't on that earlier disc, most notably the small-group sides "Where or When" (perhaps the most beautiful rendition of that song ever cut), "On the Sunny Side of the Street," and "Blues in the Night," the latter one of Lee's earliest blues numbers. Equally important, the band is captured in a nice, close rich sound, which goes double for the solos by Goodman, Mel Powell et al. Speaking of Powell, the timing of recording of the songs on this set makes it one of the best showcases of Powell's piano playing and arranging. Lee's 32 sides with Goodman on Columbia and OKeh have been augmented by three additional numbers, cut by the two as part of Goodman's postwar Capitol Records contract -- they're brighter and fuller, but not outrageously superior to his early Columbia sides; but they show off the work of a fully mature artist with five years' more confidence and skill. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

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