“Bing Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook” (GRADE: A+) and “Le Bing: Song Hits of Paris – 60th Anniversary Deluxe Edition” (GRADE: B) by Bing Crosby. Hear here: bingcrosby.com.
Bing Crosby, always sounding utterly relaxed, had a singular ability to sell, really sell, just about any kind of song written in the first half of the 20th century. He had memorable hits with sentimental ballads, cowboy songs, Irish lullabies – those were easy, his mom was Irish – jazzy numbers, novelty tunes and, oh, yes, Christmas songs, Crosby’s most famous contribution to the popular culture of today. We’ll be hearing plenty of Crosby singing Christmas songs in the upcoming weeks.
The new compilation “Bing Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook” doesn’t include any Christmas songs but finds Crosby uniformly brilliant as he performs pretty much every other kind of popular song around from 1934 to 1953. The hour of music includes 22 selections, 10 of which have never before been issued, including a smile-inducing “Jeepers Creepers” and a version of “That Old Magic” that features Crosby at his most sonorous, which means it’s about as smooth and pleasing as singing gets with perfect enunciation and phrasing.
Other standouts include a live version of “Lazy Bones” with Louis Armstrong and Crosby with Mercer himself on “Mister Meadowlark.” Crosby and Mercer were pals with equally eclectic taste, making this album an excellent pairing that does as good a job as any single disc to showcase Crosby’s unmatched versatility as a singer of popular songs.
For further proof of Crosby’s flexibility, listen to him croon in French on “Le Bing: Song Hits of Paris – 60th Anniversary Deluxe Edition,” also released this month by Universal Music Enterprises. It’s a goodies-filled reissue of Crosby’s1953 full-length, one of the first concept albums. By no means essential or a great place to start for Crosby neophytes, it’s quite charming all the same.