Personnel: Frankie Laine (vocals); Paul Weston (vocals); Alton Hendrickson, Bernard Kessel, Edwin Cole, George Van Eps, Wesley Webb West, Jack Rose, Jack Marshall, Allan Reuss, Tony Rizzi, Vincent Terri (guitar); Abe Lincoln, Jack Stacey, Henry Beau, Theodore Nash, Harry Lawson , Leonard Hartman, Edward Miller, Babe Russin, Fred Stulce (saxophone); Conrad Gozzo , Rubin Zarchy, George Seaberg, Ziggy Elman, Charlie Teagarden (trumpet); William Schaefer, Allen Thompson, Harold Diner, Francis Howard, Eddie Kusby (trombone); Carl Fischer (piano); Alvin Stoller, Nick Fatool (snare drum).
Liner Note Author: Peter Grendysa.
Recording information: Radio Recorders, Hollywood, CA (04/10/1951-07/02/1954).
Illustrator: Joachim Senkler.
Photographer: Joachim Senkler.
Released in 1994 as a precursor to Bear Family's onslaught of humongous Frankie Laine box sets, this bracingly upbeat collection documents his periodic duet collaborations with the mighty Jo Stafford, one of the few female vocalists who could stand her own ground alongside this cocky, surly-voiced pop singer. In the photo on the album cover, old Frankie looks like he's come to the realization that he is sharing the microphone with a woman who can handle anything he belts out and toss it back at him like a medicine ball. Recorded during the years 1951-1954, The Duets will appeal mostly to those who crave zippy, often corny fast paced entertainment. This element is epitomized by "A Bushel and a Peck" and the Hank Williams numbers "Hey Good Lookin'" and "Settin' the Woods on Fire." The trotting pace of "Hambone" and "Piece a Puddin" is even spunkier, and Wesley Webb West's steel guitar is brought into the fray on "Christmas Roses." Both singers' links to the jazz world are more in evidence during Hoagy Carmichael's "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," and Laine pours himself all over "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" and "Floatin' Down to Cotton Town," made famous during the 1930s by Fats Waller and his Rhythm. A comparatively relaxed rendition of the "Basin Street Blues" comes as a pleasant surprise, and this is a good place to point out the collective presence of a healthy contingent of jazz players such as trumpeters Ziggy Elman and Charlie Teagarden; trombonist Abe Lincoln; saxophonists Babe Russin, Eddie Miller, and Ted Nash, as well as guitarists Barney Kessel and George Van Eps. Some of this material was produced by Mitch Miller. Maybe that's why the annoying Norman Luboff Choir shows up uninvited, as it were, to add early-'50s cheese to performances that are already giddy enough for anybody's money. Most listeners will probably find the choir's grinning, somewhat deranged presence on "Let's Have a Party" to be so over-the-top as to suspend reality with all the charm of a swiftly munched fistful of Dexedrine spansules. Their overbearing delivery is the main drawback to this collection. Then again, of course, if it's subtlety you're after, you're barking up the wrong cactus with Frankie Laine. ~ arwulf arwulf