Friday, December 29, 2017

The Bing Crosby CBS Radio Recordings, 1954-56

Fans of Bing Crosby can rejoice! Over 160 unreleased tracks are now available on a seven-CD box set, complete with liner notes and booklet. Following a weekly radio program over NBC, ABC and CBS, for almost two decades, Bing Crosby realized the medium of television was sucking up advertising revenue. By 1954, big-budget radio could no longer compete with the video tube and he began a downsized daily series. Five days a week, fifteen minutes a day, Crosby could be heard over the air in a series of pre-recorded musical programs, sans celebrity guests. The singer recorded an enormous "pool" of songs in a number of recording sessions, which would be used in hundreds of broadcasts on CBS. Derived from these are the treasures in this collection, made possible by a visionary's gamble, an engineer's wizardry and a transformative substance called "tape."

Like buried treasure reclaimed from the past, this remarkable set is like no other Bing Crosby collection ever released. With longtime accompanist Buddy Cole, fifteen recording sessions were remastered and released on this impressive box set through Mosaic Records. While Crosby felt at the time that his voice was not what it used to be, fans of the crooner would never tell when listening to these gems. They were not initially intended to be issued on records, through several tracks were instantly pressed into service for two popular Decca albums. But the majority of the tracks in this set have never been released or heard in decades. 

The set contains a large 16-page book with two informative essays (well-written and accurately researched) by music historian Martin McQuade, and author/historian Gary Giddins. This set is limited to a print run of 20,000, retails $120, is absolutely remarkable, and while the price tag might be a bit steep, less than $20 per CD is not bad when you consider all the music licensing and digital restoration involved. Which leaves me with a thought to ponder: how many vocal legends have un-released tracks still sitting in the vaults, ready to be discovered?