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Recent reviews of Crystal Stream Audio CDs
Memory Lane, England
"Your Return Ticket to Musical Nostalgia"

SMITH BALLEW and HIS ORCHESTRA - Volume Six 1930 to 1935 IDCD461/462
Smith Ballew had two overlapping careers as a vocalist and band leader. As a freelance vocalist he was in demand from a host of leaders and could be compared to Engalnd's own Sam Browne in this respect. He had two spells as a bandleader and it is the second that features on this double CD collection. lnterspersed with recordings by his regular unit are those by a studio orchestra put together by Victor Young or Russ Morgan. From mid-1932 Glenn Miller became Smith's business manager, trombonist and arranger. Other notables who featured on Smith Ballew's recordings included Bunny Berigan, Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti. The musical quality of the recordings was assured as can be heard from the evidence in this collection. Raymond Scott plays piano on his composition 'Tia Juana'. Smith Ballew had one of the most pleasant singing voices of the late twenties and early thirties in the USA and together this makes for a very enjoyable listening experience. The remastering ensures the recordings sound remarkably fresh. A great collection of mostly familiar songs well worth listening to. - Phill Cruise

Victor Arden and Phil Ohman were a piano-playing team much in the mould of lvor Moreton and Dave Kaye. Their dance band recordings, some of which were issued in the UK by HMV, used studio musicians as they did not have a regular band. After splitting up in 1933 they each led their own orchestras. The duet's recordings from 1926 to 1932 have the pair well to the fore with the orchestra providing tasteful and often lively support. lncluded among the dance band numbers is one piano duet, Maple Leaf Rag, played hotter than usual. A well-remastered collection that will please all lovers of piano-led music. - Phill Cruise

AMBROSE AND HIS ORCHESTRA with vocals by SAM BROWNE - Volume Four IDCD455/456
From the latest batch of reissues from Crystal $tream comes this great collection of HMV recordings from 1932 and 1933 of Ambrose and his Mayfair Hotel Orchestra. Nearly all the vocals are by Sam Browne, who was an indispensable part of the Ambrose organisation at this time, introducing their radio broadcasts in addition to providing nearly all the male vocals. The musical content of the CDs is superb as might be expected with a mix of romantic ballads, up-tempo numbers and a few comedy items, confirming that Ambrose had the best British dance band at the time. The remastering of the original 78s is up to lan Dodds' usual high standards and he has extracted the maximum information from HMV's excellent recordings despite any shortcomings in their shellac mix. The highlight of the latest batch of Crystal Stream reissues this is highiy recommended to all devotees of top flight British dance music. - Phill Cruise

KAY KYSER and HIS ORCHESTRA - “Three Little Fishes” 1929 to 1947 IDCD456/460
I am sure that most ML readers will be familiar with the work of Kay Kyser as many of his recordings were issued in the UK, including a couple in this great collection from Crystal Stream. The sides featured on these CDs fall into four stages of the orchestra's life from the early 'hot' years through the sweet-sounding thirties to the more mainstream band sounds of the war years and the post-war orchestra. The thirties recordings are characterised by spoken vocal introductions and Kay Kyser crediting the vocalists as he would have done during their popular radio programmes. The sound of the orchestra then was very much in the sweet mode, with hints of Kay's friend Hal Kemp and a hint of Guy Lombardo. By the forties the orchestra was much more 'mainstream' and reminded me of the kind of music that could be heard in the UK from Geraldo. The post-war recordings in particular sound much as our British bands did at the time. Kay was very fortunate having a roster of excellent vocalists who could between them handle all the recordings with ease. Merwyn Bogue was better known as 'Isch Ka Bibble' and it was film star Jane Russell who recorded with the orchestra. The remastering is excellent as might be expected and this double CD is a fine tribute to one of the USAs most well remembered recording and broadcasting sweet bands. - Phill Cruise

BILLY COTTON and HIS BAND - Volume Five 'Rhythm Mad' 1930 to 1935 IDCD443/444
The title of this collection gives a taste of what can be expected. Several of the sides reissued appear in Rust's Jazz Records and will be a revelation to those who only remember the Cotton Band from Sunday lunchtime on the 'wireless'. This great selection includes some novelty numbers and a balance of well-played tunes of the ttme, with tight ensemble playing and interesting arrangements. A stable personnel, who obviously had a good relationship with their leader, contributed to the overall excellence of the recordings. The sound of the band had reached its peak on these Regal Zonophone recordings and lan Dodds has performed wonders in restoring them for our enjoyment. Most of the tracks are reissued for the first time and for me this is the pick of Crystal Stream's latest batch of CDs. British dance band devotees will surely love this one! - Phill Cruise

Duke Ellington and His Orchestra Recordings from 1927 to 1935 IDCD278/9 a superb collection of recordings consisting in all of 51 tracks over two CDs. about half of which are Ellington compositions. Whilst there have been many CDs featuring Duke Ellington there will be very few that better this selection as an introduction to what became one of the most influential orchestras in the history of popular music. Track one is Creole Love Call which has some extraordinary vocal gymnastics from Adelaide Hall with Bubber Miley also prominent on trumpet. It sets a standard that rarely wavers. One of my favourites, The Mooche, is included as are Cotton Club Stomp. Saratoga Swing and Rockin' In Rhythm. There is an excellent solo from Barney Bigard on the tune he co-wrote. Mood Indigo, and although he did not take too many solos the Duke’s piano sparkles on That Lindy Hop. The second CD provides more of the same including the classic It Don't Mean A Thing (If it Ain't Got That Swing), a gorgeous version of Drop Me Off at Harlem, a lovely relaxed vocal from Ivie Anderson on Ebony Rhapsody and even Bing Crosby taking the chorus on St Louis Blues. The Duke’s key soloists Johnny Hodges, Lawrence Brown, Harry Carney and Cootie Williams, in addition to those already mentioned, are regularly featured throughout. It all adds up to a sumptuous feast of first class music. - Gordon Howsden

The Dorsey Brothers and Their Orchestra, Recordings from 1928 to 1934 1DCD277
Crystal Stream have put together 25 excellent tracks that start appropriately with their earliest hit Coquette. Whilst there are many gems among the other numbers I was particularly excited to find no less than five original compositions by Jimmy Dorsey included. Listening to Beebe and Oodles of Noodles it is easy to understand why his virtuoso playing inspired such greats as Charlie Parker. Tommy’s lyrical trombone is heard less often hut needless to say he is on top form with a 1932 recording of I'm Getting 5entinienta Over You. Various eminent vocalists were employed at this time including Smith Ballew, Bing Crosby and Mildred Bailey. An almost exact contemporary of the Dorsey Brothers was trombonist Russ Morgan and remarkably he came from a similar coal mining background.
Russ Morgan and His Orchestra Volume Two ‘Does Your Heart Beat for Me’ IDCD28O a selection of 25 recordings, a few of which are transcriptions, that Russ made between 1936 and 1937. The title track which he co-wrote had become his theme tune during a very successful residency at the New York Biltmore Hotel. His band, whilst always musical, was not over helped by Russ’s occasional ‘wah-wah’ interjections on trombone. Russ also liked to sing and the vocals included here show that whilst his voice was not the greatest he did have a good feel for the music. His girl vocalist Linda Lee is not someone I recall hearing before, but impresses on I Can't Escape From You and the other tracks on which she is featured. Another new name to me, Lewis Julian, is equally assured on the Dubin/Warren ballad I'll Sing You a Thousand Love Songs. Crystal Stream’s sound quality is among the best available as emphasized by these two CDs. - Gordon Howsden

Hildegarde - Recordings from 1935 to 1946 IDCD246
This is a fascinating and very welcome CD. Hildegarde, the American cabaret star, was very popular in the UK during the 1930s and made several recordings in England. The first track is a delightful version of her signature tune ably supported by Carroll Gibbons & His Boyfriends. But I was especially pleased that two tracks feature her singing with an orchestra directed by Clive Richardson, who was her accompanist and musical director for much of her stay in Europe. Possibly some of the unknown accompaniments were also directed by him. It is always good to hear Hildegarde’s piano work and two good examples appear on tracks 8 and 9. Another absolute gem is the series of eight tracks (16-21) That are from the Cole Porter show Lets Face it. Finally, a wonderful curiosity in the two Rodgers & Hammerstein numbers backed by Guy Lombardo. The transfers as ever are superb. - Gordon Howsden