This collection of Jo Stafford tunes features recordings from her early period with Capitol Records, from 1943 to 1950. She signed to the label as a member of the Pied Pipers, but after charting her first hit for Capitol in 1944, ''Old Acquaintance,'' she left the group to pursue her solo career, and what a career that turned out to be! During her stay at Capitol, Jo charted more songs than any other female artist signed to the label, becoming one of America's greatest singing stars.
The songs on this collection compliment those contained on Capitol's Great Ladies of Song collection under her name, but they are a somewhat different breed of material. The tracks released on her Great Ladies of Song compilation stick with the more formulatic pop sound of that decade, while the songs on this CD feature a more diverse Jo. She wasn't called ''America's Most Versatile Singer'' for nothing. Alongside pop hits like ''The Things We Did Last Summer" and ''Long Ago (and Far Away)'' are such tunes as the folk song ''He's Gone Away'' and the infamous, campy ''Ragtime Cowboy Joe.'' She also joins up with City Slicker Red Ingle for ''Temptation (Tim-tayshun),'' a hilarious countrified send-up of the popular Bing Crosby song of the time (version available on Bing Crosby: Love Songs). Capitol wouldn't let her use her real name on the recording, so she was listed as "Cinderella G. Stump," but the song proved such a hit (it reached number one on the charts) that the truth was finally revealed. The song itself, as well as being funny, is quite fascinating musically, with some interesting twists and turns.
Also featured on the CD is one of Jo's many duets with Gordon McRae, ''Whispering Hope,'' an unusual selection (originally written in 1868) that after a slow start topped the chart at number one. Other selections on the album include a duet with Capitol founder and famous singer/songwriter Johnny Mercer, ''It's Great to Be Alive,'' and a session featuring the great Nat King Cole on piano, ''Ridin' the Gravy Train.''
This is a solid collection of material from one of the greatest singers of the twentieth century and well worth having. It also contains great liner notes, with the exception of not stating who did the orchestration on each song. One can easily assume that Paul Weston was responsible for the task on most tracks, as he was for most of Jo's career, but there were exceptions. Recommended.