Fred Astaire: The Complete London Sessions
See more » Listening
I'd planned to begin by saying that in acquiring Fred Astaire: The Complete London Sessions I had all of Astaire available on CD.
Then I remember that I'd foolishly passed on the collection of him singing on his television show. I saw it at Circuit City a few years ago and didn't know that it was out of print and I'd not see another copy. Still OP. I can buy a secondhand copy for $38.00 and up. I'm not that kind of buyer.
While I was digging I discovered Rarities and Songs & Pictures 1928-1944: both out of print.
A Portrait Of Fred Astaire is available and may have enough songs that I don't own to justify buying but I'm not sure (it is may be OP as well but is available inexpensively).
Most painfully to find was Mr. Top Hat on Verve. Verve maybe my favorite label for traditional pop singing. The CD came out last year but being part of Verve's limited editions series – to be fair they mostly use that for releases they don't expect to find a large audience – is already gone. I might be a copy of the Japanese release, again for $38.00.
Fred Astaire sang for decades but like many of the best pop singers most of what is available is the small small body of greatest hits repackaged repeatedly.
The London Sessions is a three disc set. The first disc comes from the days before Astaire made movies. His early material has been released many times but the sound quality here is conspicuously better than the disc I already had.
The other two discs date from sessions in the mid-70s. 1970s pop music production is often naggingly precious. On disc two the music is happily in the background, generally never obtruding on Astaire's singing.
Disc three would be the problem I already new. I already have the duets with Bing Crosby from a similar set of Crosby recordings made by the producer about the same time. Many of the duets are corny. Too be fair the songs were when they appeared in the movies Astaire and Crosby appeared together in. I think they would've been more enjoyable with contemporary arrangements but the producer adopted a faux traditional style that cloys instantly. Worst of all are the background vocals, often the bane of late traditional pop. Too intrusive.
Astaire's powers were still there. His gift was taste and timing. For the tracks that I do enjoy, and the improved mastering of his earliest material the set is worth what I spent on it.