Swingin' with Bing

Michael posted 08/09/05 01:56 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
The Swingin' with Bing 3-CD boxed set of rare radio performances is #17 on Amazon's best-selling CDs today. The reason? Today's Wall Street Journal contains a lengthy rave review of the set by Nat Hentoff.
Arne posted 08/09/05 04:03 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I haven't had a chance to read Hentoff's article, but he is, historically, one of Bing's biggest boosters, and one of the most respected jazz journalists of all time. At this writing, the album is up to #14! - This is exactly what happened when Giddins' book came out, and received much newspaper attention. With the helpful hype that media coverage brings, Bing zooms into the best seller charts as before.

Once again, proof that if the lazy ingnoramuses at MCA-Universal got off their asses and did a little homework, they'd have an eternally remunerative catalogue to issue creatively and to everyone's satisfaction. Bing's sales are generally poor NOT because he is "forgotten", but because the corporate slugs who control his legacy are (to coin a phrase), "The most un-hip people of ANY color born in America". Thanks to Ken Barnes and to SHOUT! Factory for making the misguided beancounters at Universal look like the idiots they are.
BarryB posted 08/09/05 04:07 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
This is a fantastic CD set; the sound alone is worth the price, and you also get the Bing and Louis sides recorded at the right speed. I just got my set from Amazon.ca for $39.95.
Lee posted 08/09/05 04:58 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
To Arne, it's really unbelievable and a real shame on MCA, that in a day where complete "recordings of" box sets of so many different singers of much less reknown than Bing, that Bing Crosby, the greatest singer and the one who started them all out, is ignored by the very label he helped to create and made millions for. Decca/MCA/Universal should be hanging their respective heads, but these guys have no shame, so I won't hold my breath for any Bing Box sets anytime in my lifetime.
Judy Schmid posted 08/09/05 08:08 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I know our good friend Wig Wiggins has contacts at MCA - or had them - I wonder if someone might contact him to point out the WSJ article and the 'zooming' up of Bing's Shout CD set? I know Wig only checks here occasionally...but I'm sure he'd be happy to point MCA to those Amazon.com stats! ;-)
Arne posted 08/10/05 12:53 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Judy, your mention of Wig Wiggins in context of MCA-Universal reminds me that I should mention that Wig has been responsible for the best of what Universal HAS released in recent years. - The one good thing they've done over there is to allow Wig to bring to the fore some thoughtful, desireable, collectible sets from this otherwise unsympathetic corporation. I only wish they'd let Wig "Go To Town", as it were. He has the knowledge, taste, and presentational skills necessary to help MCA do what SHOULD be done, if only they'd get it together and recognize the obvious.

By the way - I am not speaking merely as a disgruntled Crosby fan: Universal's half-assed treatment of the Louis Armstrong legacy (Louis being the single-most significant and influential American musical performer of ANY description in the 20th century) is tantamount to an act of American cultural disgrace. What is WITH these people?
Ronald Sarbo posted 08/10/05 10:07 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Arne: I believe Louis Armstrong has been treated far better by Universal Music Group than Bing. There seems to be new Louis Armstrong CD every week. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Arne posted 08/10/05 11:11 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Ron, you're right about Louis getting better treatment at Universal than Bing, and another part of the story is that he has lots more stuff that was on Verve (now controlled by Universal). But Louis' releases by Universal, somewhat plentiful though they may be, are still disorganized and patchy. The fact that the label has never released a comprehensive, complete box by the most important musician in American history says a lot about the compnay, and casts additional meaning to their cavalier treatment of the Bing catalogue.
Ronald Sarbo posted 08/11/05 07:45 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Arne: I would not seek to dispute you with respect to Louis' influence on Jazz and Pop but with respect to SINGING I would say that Bing was the MOST influential performer of the 20th century by virtue of all the greats he DIRECTLY influenced and all those who were influenced subsequently by them.

Arne posted 08/11/05 11:09 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Ron, this is a touchy, delicate, "fine" point. Wish I had more time to really communicate my feelings and opinion.....

I certainly take no exception to the notions you've expressed regarding Bing's influence - In fact, I've spent most of my life proclaiming them loudly and often. But Louis (who was the biggest influence on Bing of anybody, including Jolson or Waters) is just such an all-encompassing giant of influence over all forms of jazz and pop expression... well, to me he is just the biggest influence, even if some of what he did was funneled through Bing and then passed along (with Bing's many refinements and contributions) to all those subsequent "greats" you've mentioned. Just my perspective.
BarryB posted 08/11/05 01:15 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
This review of "Swingin' with Bing" appears on the Canadian site of Amazon. I trust they and John Bush and All Music Guide will not object to my submitting it to the Museum; I could not find it on the Amazon.com site.

Swinging' with Bing REVIEW:

The public domain is well stocked with budget discs drawn from Bing Crosby's long radio career. Unfortunately, few are worth the plastic they're etched on, the usual problems including horrid sound quality and little in the way of documentation (regarding their origins) or context (regarding their relation to Crosby's career). Enter Shout! Factory to remedy the situation, hiring longtime enthusiast Ken Barnes -- who produced several sessions during Crosby's recording renaissance of the mid-'70s -- for the producer/compiler position and giving him free rein over the far-flung vaults of grubby transcription discs and tapes that comprise Crosby's radio career. The results, released as Swingin' With Bing! Bing Crosby's Lost Radio Performances, are splendid, offering clear proof of the opinion Bing Crosby fans have carried for decades: that transcriptions are a better source (or at least a more consistent one) to hear Crosby's swing smarts. Barnes paces the program with the touch and feel of an expert, selecting tracks from a wide range of time (a full decade of the postwar period) and tying them together with just a few interstices and crowd noise. (His instructions to audio restorer Peter Reynolds included "finding matching applause for the topping and tailing of each selection to give the feeling of a total production.") While the process may not be historically accurate, it makes for a wonderful program that delivers incredible performances and avoids the pitfalls of a usually exhausting 75-track box set. Many of the highlights come on the first disc with looser versions of his hit standards "Swinging On a Star" and "Don't Fence Me In." The final two discs are devoted to duets -- a staple of Crosby's show -- and include performances with a succession of old friends: Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Joe Venuti. Aside from the material, the set offers excellent fidelity and an overall sympathetic compilation to make the process of listening to a lengthy selection of Bing Crosby's non-studio sides smoother than it's ever been before. ~ John Bush, All Music Guide
howard crosby posted 08/12/05 07:02 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
What was Bing's take on this:

"Louis Armstrong is the beginning and the end of popular music. He is the best there ever was, and he is the best there ever will be." Bing Crosby
Candace Scott posted 08/12/05 11:18 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
It's marvelous that a Bing CD is popular and selling well. I'm thrilled!

Is it sacriligious to say that I actually prefer the studio recordings he did of all these songs? I was just listening to the Swingin' with Bing CD on the other day and think the studio versions of all these songs are superior. Is it just me that thinks this? Anyone else?
Jon O. posted 08/12/05 11:52 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I wouldn't say that it's "sacriligious" to like one recording of a Bing song vs. another. In my opinion, there was usually a looser, more immediate feel to Bing's radio work that was occasionally missing in the studio. Sometimes it enhanced the performance, sometimes it didn't. Personally, I don't really have a preference either way regarding most of the songs on "Swingin'" when compared to their studio counterparts--it's ALL good! But there are a few numbers on "Swingin'" that really stand head and shoulders above their respective studio versions. One is "Way Back Home", with Ella and the Mills Bros. Another is "Up a Lazy River"/"Paper Doll" medley with the Mills', which I think eclipses not only Bing's “Songs I Wish I Had Sung” version of "Paper Doll", but also his recording of "River" with Louis in 1960 (now THAT may be sacrilegious). I think the jiving looseness with which Bing performed "Chattanoogie Shoeshine Boy" on the “Swingin’” radio version works to its advantage and makes it much more crackling and appealing than the record. Though Bing's studio version of "Sam's Song" with Gary is really well done and effectively breezy, there's something about the less polished (yet still very smooth) performance with Nat Cole that is very appealing.

I've found much more of a discrepancy in Bing's movie soundtrack recordings vs. his studio tracks (pre-1950's, when a record release of a movie song was a completely different recording than what was heard in the movie). To my ears the soundtrack versions were almost always better than the records. A perfect example is "So Do I", from Pennies From Heaven.
Jon O. posted 08/12/05 12:40 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
OK, I have to take one thing back. After thinking about it a little longer, "Up a Lazy River", from "Bing and Satchmo" is just too good to give the edge to the Bing-Mills radio version. But they're close! Just two very different readings. Hope the Reverend Satchelmouth won't find me guilty of sacrilege.
jane s posted 08/12/05 01:23 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I just smile when I hear Bing enjoying himself. That's what I hear when I listen to the Swingin' set. And I think his voice on the duets is so smooth, his laughter so infectious and it blends and compliments the other singer(s). If I remember, Candice, you prefer Bing's voice without backup singers. How about duets?
Brian R. Johnson posted 08/12/05 11:06 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I agree with Jon about Bing in studio vs Bing on Film/Radio. I always felt that the time limitation of 78rpm recordings crowded Bing. I love "Stardust" but think Bing's version from the 30's sounds rushed. The best version of that song came from Nat Cole and was recorded for an albulm in the 50's. Just the right tempo.
Candace Scott posted 08/14/05 09:19 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Don't get me wrong, I love the live performances for all the reasons others have listed. I just think Bing's studio recordings on this particular disc are generally "superior" to the radio versions. He's not putting as much effort, I feel, into the radio performances. With a loose, jazzy song, that works well, but on "Swingin' on a Star" I find the radio version not especially good.

Jane, I don't like backup singers with Bing, with some exceptions (an occasional Andrews Sister track, also "Sioux City Sue" is good). I'm not that fond of duets either, unless he's singing with Louis, the Mills Brothers or a few others. One of my favorite Bing recordings of all time is a duet, with Louis Jordan, "Yip Yip De Hootie." Their suet, "Your Socks Don't Match" is another GEM!

I love his duet on "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" and also "Bob White." His duets with Bob Hope are also fine. His skills while singing with another person are just unparalleled. Sinatra, IMO, didn't sing duets especially well. Bing was a master! But I still prefer to hear him by himself
howard crosby posted 08/15/05 08:15 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Candace, don't forget "Wait Till the Sun Shines Nellie" with Mary Martin. Of of his best duets, in my opinion
Ronald Sarbo posted 08/15/05 12:39 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
My favorite "duet" is "Zing A Little Zong" with Jane Wyman.

Radio version with Rosemary Clooney also great.
jane s posted 08/15/05 03:06 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Thanks for your response, Candace.
I enjoy most of his duets, radio and studio recordings, and especially enjoy listening to the comfortable rapport and smooth blending Bing has with Rosemary Clooney. I enjoy their radio show duets as well as well as the studio recordings i.e. "Fancy Meeting You Here" cd.
Ron Field posted 08/15/05 04:40 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I enjoy the Mary Martin duets. Then there was the TV show when they sang "Wait Till" and Bing couldn't raise a whistle - didn't have enough pukka.
BarryB posted 08/16/05 05:12 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Ron, I remember seeing that show. Bing just couldn't get the whistle out, so he sat down, looked very glum and seemed about ready to throw in the towel. But this was live TV, the song was continuing, and Mary Martin had to poke him in the back to get him to carry on with the song. Bing did jump up and managed to make it to the end of the song. Very funny!, or perhaps sad, but one of the times when Bing did show his age.
dbobd posted 08/17/05 12:48 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Brian R. Johnson thinks, no - asserts, that Nat King Cole's version of 'Stardust' is the best. He suggests that the time limit of 78rpm recordings crowded Bing and that his version of 'Stardust' sounds rushed. I don't agree. Certainly the 78's can't be blamed although Bing took only 2:44 compared with Nat's 3:15; in the same session Bing took 3:19 to sing 'I apologise'. I think it's a question of style and that the brilliant, but slightly over-the-top lyrics, required the sound that the 28 year old Bing produced - and with time for a few seconds of scat, as well.

Napster(UK) have 304 tracks listed under 'Stardust' (although some are Ziggy Stardust). Those that I have sampled shirk the introductory lyrics that both Bing and Nat include.

Hoagy Carmichael made an instrumental track of 'Stardust', but did he ever record the lyrics? And does anyone know if he expressed an opinion of them?.
Mike O posted 08/17/05 12:56 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I yield to nobody in my admiration for Bing Crosby - but Nat King Cole's recording of "Stardust" is the definitive vocal version, hands down.
Jon O. posted 08/17/05 12:57 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I prefer Bing's 1939 recording, which incidentally clocks in at 3:03--without the introduction. He sounded a little hoarse in the '31 version. I'm also partial to the smoother, mellower late '30s-early '40s voice.
Ken Barnes posted 08/27/05 01:26 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I jusr came across the comments by Candace that she believes Bing's studio recordings are superior to the radio versions on SWINGIN' WITH BING. Well, far be it from me to argue with her opinion. But I feel equally entitled to express my opinion (which is shared by several of my musical associates) on the following tracks:

"Swingin' On A Star" - Bing's vocal here is clearly richer and more rhythmically poised than on the commercial version.

The same goes for "Don't Fence Me In" and "Tallahassee."
Although the latter is not as disciplined as the commercial version, the brass section offers a more spirited approach to Vic Schoen's arrangement urging Bing into some very hip phrasing.

As for "Blue Skies," this is streets ahead of the commercial recording. Taken at a gloriously slow tempo, I've never heard Bing sing with greater resonance. His phrasing is a thing of beauty and added inspiration must have come from that wonderful Les Paul guitar solo which actually enhances the fine John Scott Trotter orchestration.
Play this alongside the commercial version, Candace, and tell me I'm wrong.

Then listen to "Sure Thing" and compare it with the commercial version. I'm not denigrating any of the commercial versions, and it's entirely up to you if you prefer one to the other, but it's always been my experience that the more an artist performs a song the more possibilities he discovers in its structure.

And, in regard to your not liking Bing with backing singers,
you are certainly not alone in this. I know several people who absolutely detest vocal groups. I do not. Bing started out as a member of the Rhythm Boys which, in the late 1920s, was regarded as something of an innovative group. Later, he worked magnificently with such groups as the Mills Brothers, The Andrews Sisters and The Mel Tones - to name but a few. Jud Conlon's Rhythmaires - who did most of Bing's radio shows - were a superbly professional unit and,if you take the time to listen closely, you may realise just how skillful they were at handling those beautifully written vocal arrangements. Bing knew when he was in good company.

Wow, I seem to have sounded off quite a bit here, don't I? Well, for what it's worth, that's my opinion.
Dave Foe posted 08/28/05 01:55 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
To follow up on Ken Barnes' post, I think a lot of Bing's radio performances are superior to the recorded version. They just have more energy and a are a little looser, and more fun. Another example (not on the "Swingin' with Bing" set) is the radio vs. recorded version of "Row, Row, Row."

I've been listening to "Swingin' with Bing" all week in my car and it's great. I'd love to see a follow-up.

One thing I've got to share: on one of the songs, Bing introduces the Andrews Sisters and they say "Hi Bing" in unision. Somewhere else, I think they say "Okay Bing, let's go," or something like that, all together as well, and I think it's hilariously corny.

I think "Swingin' with Bing" is the BEST Crosby material released in the past 10 years, hands down.

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