In June and September of 1952, Joe Sullivan recorded eight versions of songs composed but never recorded by Thomas "Fats" Waller. Issued on a 10" LP entitled Fats Waller First Editions, this music soon drifted into obscurity. It resurfaced years later on Mosaic's The Columbia Jazz Piano Moods Sessions, a limited-edition box set of seven CDs. In January of 2004, the Classics Chronological series quietly released all eight of these magnificent trio renderings as part of the continuing saga of Joe Sullivan. Hardly anybody seems to have noticed this important historical development. Yet Fats Waller devotees everywhere should be notified, as they now have ready access to Waller melodies with titles like "What's Your Name," "Solid Eclipse," "Never Heard of Such Stuff," and "If You Can't Be Good, Be Careful"…
The basic and pleasing vocals of Maxine Sullivan are quite enjoyable. This CD has her first 23 recordings, including three songs originally released under pianist Claude Thornhill's name; Thornhill (who helped discover the singer) is on all of the selections. The original version of "Loch Lomond" is among the highlights and became a huge hit, leading to Sullivan's lightly swinging renditions of other folk songs such as "Darling Nellie Gray" and "Dark Eyes." Joined by such fine musicians as trumpeters Manny Klein, Frank Newton, Charlie Shavers and Bobby Hackett (all of whom are heard from briefly), along with the future members of the John Kirby Sextet, Maxine Sullivan is heard throughout in her early prime (she was 26-27 years old during this period).
Arthur Sullivan always wanted to be known more as a serious composer than one of comic opera, and his Symphony in E minor ("Irish") and his grand opera Ivanhoe, immensely popular in its own time, have been revived in recent decades. The same cannot be said of his songs, which are all but unknown except for The Lost Chord. That chestnut is not even included on this expansive two-disc survey, a highly worthwhile look into Sullivan the song composer.
Its lengthy incubation process notwithstanding, V.V. Brown's clever debut album, Travelling Like the Light, is as genuine, natural, and deep as mishmash throwback pop can get. There are a couple contemporary moments, like "Shark in the Water," featuring strummy verses and a surging chorus, but the album mostly shoots forth nods to R&B and rock & roll of the '50s, '60s, and '70s that are relentlessly playful, whether the lyrics reveal tears, daggers, or butterflies. Brown, an English songwriter who has written hits for the Pussycat Dolls and Sugababes, is bound to provoke comparisons with Janelle Monáe for her retro look and boundless energy, but she's closer to being the child of Kirsty MacColl and the sibling of Jazmine Sullivan, messing with pop traditions as she courts and reprimands with a large, youthful voice that positively dances.