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I Had The Craziest Dream - The Golden Years Of Helen Forrest [ORIGINAL RECORDINGS REMASTERED] 4CD SET
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This box set is a huge collection from whom is considered by many experts, the greatest big band singer or all time and includes both broadcast and studio material dating back to 1938. As a link to the already released The Golden Years Of Dick Haymes, Let The Rest Of The Year Go By on JASBOX 9-4. All 18 duets which Helen and Dick recorded together and one broadcast track "People Will Say We're In Love". Helen Forrest had a great career singing with Artie Shaw, Harry James and Benny Goodman as well as solo hits. The sound quality is bright and clear and this is an outstanding set of 97 vocals! The titles were chosen from those which feature the best of Helen's talents. Many tracks included in this set have never been issued on CD or LP before.
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Helen's earliest recordings were with Artie Shaw in 1938 and 1939. Jasmine previously released two single compilations of Helen's music with Artie Shaw, both of which I bought and reviewed some years ago. The first CD here begins with 21 of these recordings but omits their two number one hits (They say, Thanks for everything), though some of their big hits together (notably Deep in a dream, I poured my heart into a song) are here. Still, Helen's music with Artie was all brilliant so I'm not complaining for myself. Others may resent buying this then having to buy two other compilations to plug important gaps in their collection. CD 1 ends with two tracks (I'd be lost without you, A ghost of a chance) recorded in 1940 with Lionel Hampton, Nat King Cole and his trio. There is no mention of these two tracks in the liner notes, but they are worth a listen.
The first ten tracks from CD 2 are taken from Helen's recordings with Benny Goodman in 1940 and 1941. Several great female singers took their turn singing with Benny's band including Mildred Bailey, Helen Ward and Martha Tilton, but Helen didn't like just being a bit-part singer and quit after just a year in his band. It turned out well for both, as Helen signed for Harry James while Benny recruited Peggy Lee as Helen's replacement. Several of the hits that Helen had with Benny only feature Helen singing the chorus so, since this is a compilation of Helen's music rather than Benny's, they've been overlooked. The featured tracks here are those on which Benny gave Helen greater exposure (especially The man I love, More than you know, My sister and I)..For the hits where Helen was only a bit-part singer, look for a Benny Goodman compilation.
The remaining 13 tracks feature Helen's recordings with Harry James, all made between 1941 and 1943. Helen and Harry had four number one hits together but only two (I don't want to walk without you, I had the craziest dream) are included here, the other two (Mister five by five, I've heard that song before) are omitted. Some lesser hits are included (notably But not for me, Skylark, I remember you) but also noteworthy is You made me love you. Originally a million-selling top five instrumental hit for Harry James in 1941, the version here features Helen's vocals and was used in the soundtrack of Private buckaroo.
Helen subsequently pursued a solo career. Her first solo record (Time waits for no one) was a number two hit (Time waits for no one) but none of her other solo recordings charted. However, Helen recorded a lot of duets with Dick Haymes and together they charted ten hits. CD 3 and CD 4 cover Helen's solo and duet recordings from 1944, with all the charted hits included. Helen's last chart entry was in 1946 but she continued recording great music until the period covered by this set ends in 1950. Thereafter, Helen's recordings were sporadic but she had already proved that she was a brilliant ballad singer. While one might have expected her to succeed as a solo singer (especially given the quality of her solo recordings), that didn't happen, but her legacy of band recordings with Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Harry James, together with her duets with Dick Haymes, ensure her place in history.
While this is not a definitive collection, it is a great showcase for Helen's music. If you haven't got any of her music, start here and if you want more, look for those other Jasmine compilations with Artie Shaw and a relevant Harry James compilation.
Most of the best songs on this compilation I had never heard before, because they were all way before my time. It is hard to believe that the upbeat sounding "Night Over Shanghai", with Helen's voice soaring beautifully during her chorus, is actually about the Japanese bombing Shanghai prior to Pearl Harbor. The lyrics are a little mysterious unless you know that. The song was recorded in 1938, so she was probably with Artie Shaw at the time.
So, how did I end up finding Helen Forrest and the rest of the wonderful singers and bands from the 30's and 40's? I asked my mother what kind of music she listened to when she was in high school, and she insisted it was rock and roll. So, I did a little research to find out what kind of music was being played in 1938, when she was 16, and it was Swing. Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and Harry James played swing, and Helen Forrest sang for all of them. Everyone danced holding hands or each other at that time, all they way until "The Twist" changed everything. Maybe that is what confused her.
I think by now I have everything Helen Forrest put on vinyl or was transcribed from radio performances, and I think this comp is your best bang for the buck.
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and the phrasing.
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