Reviewer : Rosie Revell
“Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little” so allegedly goes the report that accompanied Fred Astaire’s RKO screentest in the early 1930’s. This did not deter RKO from launching him on his career and the rest is history. Despite being predominantly viewed as just a dancer Astaire was much more than just a dancer. He was one of the best singers and interpreters of song in Hollywood and this collection showcases that perfectly, showing that the songs are just as relevant now as they were then.
Fred Astaire: The Early Years at RKO is a gem of a disc that allows the fan to wallow in nostalgia or a newcomer to discover it all for the first time, featuring 31 songs that showcase Astaire’s sublime vocal performances from such classic films as Top Hat, Swing Time and Shall We Dance. It is a great collection, putting all the classics together in one place, with great music from the best orchestras of the day led by; Leo Reisman, Johnny Green, and Ray Noble.
As a singer Astaire, is responsible for introducing more classic songs to audiences from the “Great American Songbook” which are considered the greatest and most influential songs from the 1920s to the 1950s than any other. Work from composers such as; Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and George and Ira Gershwin are included.
The majority of their songs on the 2-CD set have long since become standards but are just as enjoyable as ever, and include ‘Night And Day,’ ‘Cheek To Cheek,’ ‘The Way You Look Tonight,’ ‘Top Hat, White Tie and Tails,’ ‘Let’s Face The Music and Dance’ and ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It.’ There are some new things to enjoy here that makes this CD stand out; rare alternate versions of some of the songs, as well as two solo performances by his iconic partner Ginger Rogers.
There are also some deliciously cheeky lesser- known songs such as; ‘We Saw The Sea’ and ‘They All Laughed.’
An essential listen.