Recently, I was at a Doctor’s office and on TV was America’s Got Talent was on. Over a montage of auditions, the voice of Jimmy Durante was heard singing, “If You’re Young at Heart.”
Even though he’s been dead more than 30 years and hasn’t performed in nearly 40, Durante remains one of the most enduring and endearing characters of the golden age. His unique musical styling includes ragtime and vaudeville songs mixed with heartfelt renditions of songs such as, “As Times Goes By” which helped to set the tone for the 1990s hit, Sleepless in Seattle.
Listening to old time radio programs, you’ll stumble onto Durante singing one of his songs such as, “Inka a Dinka Doo” and many of his songs can be found on YouTube. However, I decided I wanted to have a collection of essential Durante songs on my Ipod and the best value I could find was a 2010 collection called, The Very Best Songs.
The 35 track collection does a great job of covering Durante’s varied career. It includes most of Durante’s most well-known recordings hits from the late 1950s and 60s including “When Time Goes By”, “Make Someone Happy”, “Hello Young Lovers,” “Young at Heart,” and “September Song.” It also includes “Inka Dinka Doo” and “Frosty the Snowman.” In addition, the CD features several high quality audio encodes of radio and television appearances, so the program also features Jimmy singing on various tracks with Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Ethel Merman, and his old Vaudeville partner Eddie Jackson. In addition, the CD includes a couple of rare 1950s commercial releases that were done with Groucho Marx, Danny Kaye, and Jane Wyman singing the ever catchy “Black Strap Molasses” and “How D’ye Do And Shake Hands.” These two hilariously catchy earworms are worth relistening to.
The tracks are a showcase of Durante’s warmth and talent. Durante’s interaction with Crosby was priceless and he nearly cracked Jolson up on, “The Real Piano Player.” He and Bob Hope played very well off one another in, “The Boys with the Proboscis.” At the same time, Durante’s genuine kindness and humanity comes through and makes his performance of “September Song” and “Try a Little Tenderness” particularly poignant. Others such as “Bill Bailey”, “Can Broadway Do Without Me?” and “Chicabee-Ch-Ch” were stirring and delightful.
The collection is not without issues (none of which has to do with Durante’s singing). Track 26 is listed as “Quick Step” but is really another version of “Bill Bailey.” “Make Someone Happy” is on the CD twice and the last track while listed as, “Start Off Each Day with a Song” but is really an extended duet between Crosby and Durante including portions of three songs. (“Surrender, Bing the Well Dressed Man, and Blue Skies.”) This means the CD lacks, “Start off Each Day With a Song” which was Durante theme for many years over radio. Also MIA are, “Jimmy the Well-Dressed Man” and “Good Night.” One odd track is a twenty second clip of Durante’s performance on a famous episode of Command Performance as “The Mole.” There’s also a track with Bing Crosby singing, “Never in a Million Years” with no Durante.
Still, these are minor issues. For $8.99, the collection is a great deal and a great way to start a collection of the Schnozolla’s greatest hits.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0
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