Peggy Lee, born Norma Deloris Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota, began singing for local radio stations when she was still in her teens and joined Benny Goodmans band in 1941, when she was 21. She stayed with Goodman for two years and married the bands guitarist, Dave Barbour, with whom she would write a number of songs, including "Maņana," a number-one hit for her in 1948. Ms. Lee spent much of recording career with Capitol Records, which has joined with Collectors Choice to release several of her titles from their catalog.
The gem of the series is The Lost 40s & 50s Capitol Masters, two CDs of recordings Lee made for Capitol from 1944 through 1952. "Aint Goin No Place" opens disc one with the singer showing a slight Billie Holiday influence. On most of the tracks on both discs, Barbour and his orchestra accompany Lee in a variety of settings, and they never falter. Neither does she, whether singing sweet ballads or swinging jazz tunes. Disc two features arrangements by Pete Rugolo, Billy May, and Sid Feller, and Lee shows a sure command of the jazz and pop idioms. The later recordings have livelier sound quality, but The Lost 40s & 50s Capitol Masters is cleanly mastered throughout.
In 1960, Capitol gathered together 12 tracks, most of them singles Lee had released in the previous two years, for All Aglow Again! The album opens with Little Willie Johns classic "Fever," which is Lee's classic as well. The remaining tracks (to which the reissue producers add six from the same time period), show the full range of Lees talents. Some occasional distortion betrays the age of the master tapes, but the remastering is generally vibrant.
Two more reissues in this series include two titles each. One couples Then was Then, Now is Now from 1965 with Bridge Over Troubled Water from 1970. The first is classic Lee, the second an uneven attempt to update her. Two other recordings from the early '70s, Make It With You and Where Did They Go, are attempts to pitch the singer to a light-rock audience. Stick with the classics.
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