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THE BEST OF SAUTER-FINEGAN (Collectors' Choice Music CCM-078-2)

I am indebted to Matt Lutthans for calling my attention to this release (see Letters to Dr. Progresso), which came out in 1998. I immediately picked up a copy, and I have been listening to it daily.


As I commented to Matt, there is only a six-track overlap between this collection and the 1988 Bluebird collection, DIRECTIONS IN MUSIC. That leaves fourteen tracks on this album which are new to CD, making it well worth getting if you liked the earlier CD. The six tracks which appear on both CDs are "Doodletown Fifers," "Love Is A Simple Thing," "Nina Never Knew," "April In Paris," "Horseplay," and "Midnight Sleighride" ("Moonlight Sleighride" on the Bluebird disc, but "Midnight" originally). These are among the best tracks on both CDs.

Interestingly, between these two CDs we now have three quarters of the "Extended Play Suite" - "Child's Play," "Horseplay," and "Dream Play." Only "Holiday" remains to be issued on CD. But, as I also said in my response to Matt, most of these tracks were originally released as singles. There is less material recorded for albums on this CD than the first. So what we get here are, for the most part, unusual and catchy versions of popular songs, with vocals. They include "The Moon Is Blue," "Of Thee I Sing," "Got A Date With An Angel," and "Exactly Like You." (For the complete track listing, see Matt's letter.)

However there are also instrumental pieces which were released as singles (usually as B-sides) like "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum," an angular and atonal little ditty, and the sensuous "Rain," which was used on their first 10" LP (a collection of singles).

Only three tracks - the last three - originated on an album, the final Sauter-Finegan album, STRAIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE. These appear here in new, "twin-track" versions which were RCA Victor's 1957 form of stereo. Unfortunately, STRAIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE was Sauter-Finegan's weakest album, an attempt to appeal to middle-of-the-road dance-band listeners, and the least interesting of the eight albums they made. Consequently, and despite the stereo recording, those final three tracks are somewhat disappointing and fail to close the CD with much authority. (Those albums are NEW DIRECTIONS IN MUSIC, released as a 10" album in 1953, and, with four added tracks, as a 12" album in 1956; INSIDE SAUTER-FINEGAN in 1954; Sound Of The Sauter Finegan Orchestra also in 1954; Concert Jazz in 1955; SONS OF SAUTER-FINEGAN also in 1955; ADVENTURE IN TIME in 1956; UNDER ANALYSIS in 1957; and STRAIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE also in 1957.)


On the other hand, the mastering process has improved in ten years and these tracks, all but the last three taken directly from RCA Victor's "first generation 30 ips master tapes," sound terrific. (The last three are from "original 15 ips 'twin-track' tapes.") The sound is a definite improvement over that of the earlier Bluebird release.

This collection was released in conjunction with BMG Special Products. BMG is now the owner of RCA Victor. When I went to Collectors' Choice's website I was unable to find any mention of the album, but it remains currently available in stores; I got mine at Tower.

It's encouraging to see a second collection of Sauter-Finegan's recordings available on CD, despite the ten-year gap between the two releases. But the vast bulk of their recordings remain unavailable on CD. What is needed is a reissue program devoted to their albums - and a proper reissue of all four parts of their "Extended Play Suite" in correct sequence. Given the relatively short playing time of their LPs, this could easily be done with two LPs per CD. Whether it will be is another story, however.

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