Entertainment

Fred Astaire - The Early Years At RKO

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Monday Jan 13, 2014
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Known primarily for the lightning precision with which he navigated each and every dance step, Fred Astaire (1899-1987) applied the same pursuit of perfection to his vocal tracks for each of the films he made during his storied stage and cinematic career. Sony Entertainment has now released a two-disc compilation of Astaire’s most noted vocal performances, and it’s easy to sit back with a pair of headphones and be transported back to the Golden Days of Hollywood, with the ultra-suave song and dance man smoothly gliding us through many of the hits of the 1930s.

The writers of these classics were a who’s who of hitmakers from the era: Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin. They frequently wrote for Astaire, as they knew his performances would contain the passion and integrity their melodies craved.

"The Early Years of RKO" begins with two tracks from "Flying Down to Rio," the first film to feature Astaire with Ginger Rogers, who together would redefine the musical theater dance world. The orchestral performances on these recordings are superb. Whether under the band leadership of Ray Noble, Leo Reisman, or Johnny Green, the instrumental tracks throughout the more than thirty songs are equally up to the task of melding with Astaire’s vocal to create a musical ambience that would ultimately peak in a dance feature.

Many of the songs associated with Astaire are here: Irving Berlin’s "Cheek to Cheek," "No Strings" and "The Piccolino;" Kern’s "Pick Yourself Up" and "A Fine Romance;" Porter’s "Night and Day;" Gershwin’s "They Can’t Take That Away From Me" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It." The release also contains six Bonus Tracks, including two vocals from Rogers ("The Yam" and "I Used To Be Color Blind") and an Alternate Take of "A Fine Romance," recorded at a faster tempo then eventually preferred by Jerome Kern.

Great music for dinner parties, or for just relaxing in the daytime, "The Early Years of RKO" is the perfect accompaniment.

"The Early Years at RKO"
Fred Astaire
CD, DVD and Digital formats
Sony Music Entertainment

by Fred Astaire

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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