The Early Years at RKO
Fans of the Great American Songbook often cite Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald as the genre's top dog. Yet this Fred Astaire collection culled from his classic '30s films with Ginger Rogers is a vivid reminder that the genre was nothing without this dancer-singer-actor. Featuring some of the first performances of compositions by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Jerome Kern (who all loved to write for Astaire), this set presents early versions of “Night and Day,” “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” While Astaire didn’t have the singular sense of swing of Sinatra or Bing Crosby, this is pop music at its best from a bygone era backed by the notable orchestras of Ray Noble or Johnny Green. Fans will also get a bit of that patented Astaire humor—the end of the album includes two takes on the Berlin novelty “The Yam” with Rogers doing vocals on the last version. Astaire reportedly hated his own singing voice, but this is truly a gift for the rest of us.