Three complete albums plus bonus tracks on a superb 2-CD collection. Made during the first years of the LP era, the Harry James albums Harry James in Hi-Fi and More Harry James in Hi-Fi comprised some of the greatest hits of the James orchestra - a unit that by that time had been working unceasingly with few changes since 1939.
Among the instrumental figures present on both of the 1955-1956 albums were trombonist Juan Tizol (who had made a name for himself as part of the Duke Ellington orchestra) and saxophonist Willie Smith. By the time the LPs were made, both had been playing more than a decade with Harry James.
Tizol entered the band in May 1944, while Smith joined a few months later, in November 1944. Both albums were best sellers when first issued, and are presented here in their entirety with the addition of four performances that were taken from the "More Harry James in Hi-Fi" sessions but originally issued on compilation albums.
The third album making up this set of quintessential mid-fifties dance band music is "Wild About Harry", recorded in the tradition of an earlier big band epoch but with modern orchestration.
01. CHERRY (3:11)
02. JALOUSIE (3:09)
03. SLEEPY LAGOON (3:09)
04. YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU (3:31)
05. TRUMPET BLUES (2:41)
06. IVE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE (2:56)
07. IM BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT (3:07)
08. ITS BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME (3:07)
09. I CRIED FOR YOU (3:20)
10. MY SILENT LOVE (3:12)
11. VELVET MOON (3:39)
12. JAMES SESSION (5:04)
13. MUSIC MAKERS (3:10)
14. CIRIBIRIBIN [Parts 1 & 2] (1:38)
15. TWO OCLOCK JUMP (3:00)
16. THE MOLE (2:44)
17. CARNIVAL (3:15)
18. AUTUMN SERENADE (4:00)
19. STREET SCENE (SENTIMENTAL RHAPSODY) (5:35)
20. SEPTEMBER SONG (4:09)
Total Time: 67:47 min.
01. BLUE AGAIN (3:58)
02. MELANCHOLY RHAPSODY (3:01)
03. THESE FOOLISH THINGS (2:55)
04. SOMEBODY LOVES ME (2:24)
05. SLEEPY TIME GAL (1:55)
06. DONCHA GO WAY MAD (2:59)
07. CRAZY RHYTHM (3:12)
08. STRICTLY INSTRUMENTAL (3:12)
09. APRIL IN PARIS* (3:17)
10. WALKIN HOME* (3:04)
11. SMOGBOUND* (3:48)
12. IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD* (2:21)
13. BLUES FOR A COUNT** (3:25)
14. COUNTIN** (2:27)
15. WHAT AM I HERE FOR?** (4:21)
16. KINDA LIKE THE BLUES** (3:54)
17. COTTON PICKIN** (3:41)
18. BLUES FOR HARRYS SAKE** (2:55)
19. BLUES FOR LOVERS ONLY** (4:29)
20. BEE GEE** (3:08)
21. BARN 12** (3:53)
22. RING FOR PORTER** (3:04)
Total Time: 71:33 min.
CD 1, tracks #1-15 from "Harry James In Hi-Fi" (Capitol W-654).
CD 1, tracks #16-20 & CD 2, tracks #1-8 from "More Harry James In Hi-Fi" (Capitol ECJ-60022).
CD 2, tracks #9-12 from the "More Harry James In Hi-Fi" sessions. Not on the original LP.
CD 2, tracks #13-22 from "Wild About Harry" (Capitol ECJ-40002).
Arrangements by Ernie Wilkins, Jimmy Mundy, Shorty Rogers, Billy May, Neal Hefti & Harry James.
Personnel on "Harry James In Hi-Fi": Harry James, Nick Buono, Phil Cook,
Conrad Gozzo, Everett McDonald, Ralph Osborne (tp), Juan Tizol, Hoyt Bohannon, Roy Main, Lewis McCreary (tb), Herb Lorden Jr., Willie Smith, Pat Chartrand, Bill Massingill, Bob Poland (saxes), Doug Parker (p), Allan Reuss (g), Bob Stone (b), Jackie Mills (d), Gene Estes (vib), Helen Forrest, Bob Marlo (vcl). Recorded in Los Angeles, July 18-21, 1955.
Personnel on "More Harry James In Hi-Fi": Harry James, Nick Buono, Art Deview, Don Smith, Conrad Gozzo, Joe Drowny, Micky Malgarno (tp), Juan Tizol, Dick Nash, Roy Main, George Roberts (tb), Willie Smith, Herb Lorden, Herbie Steward, Bill Massingill, Corky Corcoran, Tom Sathers, Bob Poland (saxes), Larry Kinnamon (p), Dannie Tingrell (g), Joe Comfort (b), Buddy Combine (d). Recorded in Los Angeles, November-December 1955 & January 1956.
Personnel on "Wild About Harry": Harry James, Robert Rolfe, Don Paladino,
Nick Buono, Ray Linn (tp), Robert Edmonson, Robert Robinson, Herbie Harper (tb), Ernest Small, Corky Corcoran, Francis Polifroni, Herb Lorden, Willie Smith (saxes), Larry Kinnamon (p), Allan Reuss (g), Russ Phillips (b), Buddy Poor (d). Recorded in Los Angeles, May 2-4, 1957.
-Harry James in Hi-Fi
"Capitol Records' catalog originally wasn't too strong in big band or swing music, the label having been founded in 1941 and, thus, managing to miss out on the prime prewar years for both musical booms, and then running smack into a series of recording bans by the Musicians' Union during the early '40s. But the company was smart enough to quickly embrace the conversion from disc recording to magnetic tape in the late '40s, and also the switch from 78s to LPs, and to tally the effects of these developments; it also recognized the fact that a big chunk of the swing audience was still viable (if not exactly dominating the music marketplace), 10-15 years older, and no longer worrying about World War II, mostly settled into middle-class life and happy to feed their turntables with music that they loved. And Capitol's A&R men were shrewd enough to see that some of the surviving swing acts had done more than hold their own -- they were just about as good as ever, even if they weren't rewriting the book on popular music anymore, and the recording and playback technology in existence in 1955 could let them really show what they could do. The result was the label's signing of acts such as the Andrews Sisters, Benny Goodman, and Harry James, all of whom were able to remake and, in some instances, refine their classic sides. Harry James had the most success of any of these "new" old artists, to judge from the sheer number of recordings he got to do -- five LPs in all at a time when LPs were major projects. To judge from this first release, they had the stuff they needed; not to knock their classic '40s sides, but this band, including the string section, seemed to revel in the fact that modern microphones and playback were going to give back to the listener at home every detail of their work on these sessions. Yes, the originals may have had more immediacy and been on (or near) the cutting-edge of pop, but the album's opener, "You Made Me Love You," with its achingly beautiful James solo and elegant string accompaniment, shows the value of taking a second crack at a classic, while "Sleepy Lagoon," with its gently pulsing strings and elegant piano introduction leading into an exquisite solo by James, is gorgeous enough for the listener to lose him or herself in. "Trumpet Blues" could have been done a decade earlier, but listeners wouldn't have James' trumpet as finely delineated as it is here. And then there's Helen Forrest, called in to re-create her two biggest hits with the band, "I've Heard That Song Before" and "I Cried for You," plus sub for her replacement, Kitty Kallen, on "It's Been a Long, Long Time" and "I'm Beginning to See the Light"; she steps up and, with help from some beautiful little acoustic guitar flourishes around the bolder sounds of trumpet and sax, turns in a refreshing performance of the period pop hit. Only "My Silent Love" (featuring Bobby Marlo subbing for Dick Haymes) and "It's Been a Long, Long Time" take on an overly nostalgic mood, and with the latter song it would be impossible for it not to do so. The album closes with two hot instrumentals, "Two O'Clock Jump," James' answer to Count Basie's "One O'Clock Jump," owing as much to Benny Goodman as it does to Basie, which is recorded so cleanly that every nuance is audible and one even gets a sense of the room ambience, and "James Session," a showcase for James and drummer Jackie Mills that was obviously patterned on Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing," five minutes of the band (and the two soloists) sending the music boiling right up to the edge of their musical containment; "Ciribiribin" bookends the album as an intro and outro. The dance music audience devoured Harry James in Hi-Fi, while swing music enthusiasts eager to hear some of their favorite music fully realized regarded this and records like it as a gift of serendipity amid the increasingly dominant sounds of R&B and rock & roll; it was successful enough to yield a follow-up and start a three-year relationship between James and Capitol that would go in some more ambitious directions."
Bruce Eder -All Music Guide
-More Harry James in Hi-Fi
"The emphasis is on recreations of Harry James hits of a decade earlier on this Capitol release. Although some of the charts were updated and there are some short solos by altoist Willie Smith and Corky Corcoran on tenor, the results are very predictable. The string section weighs down the music a bit and these renditions of "The Mole," "Strictly Instrumental" and "Street Scene" add little to the earlier versions. A lesser effort."
-Wild About Harry
"By 1957, Harry James was in an artistic rut. Although he would occasionally try to come up with fresh material, he never did regain the stature he had in the 1940s. This Capitol LP mostly contains material arranged by Ernie Wilkins and the result is that the James band often sounds like Count Basie's. Buddy Rich's drumming helps uplift the band, altoist Willie Smith, tenorman Corky Corcoran and trombonist Herbie Harper have some good spots and James is in good form but the music is not all that memorable."
Both by Scott Yanow -All Music Guide