Top critical review
Bing for the budget
April 21, 2012
This edition of 100 Hits: Bing Crosby by DMG comes in a double disc box within a cardboard cover, containing 5 discs and a single booklet. Within the booklet there is a fairly short written overview of Crosby's career - way too simple for a 5 cd retrospective. Aside from this, the booklet gives all the essential info of each track, which is recording date, featured vocalists, orchestra director, and most importantly composer(s); all without visible mistakes, though keep in mind that the recording dates may not match the chart entry date (which is usually within the same year or the next). Chart position of each song is missing.
Each song presented is (fortunately) the original track recordings, which means you won't be ripped off by tv show versions, radio re-recordings and such (something present in other editions of 100 hits, but not in this one). The only exception is the opening "Where The Blue Of The Night (Meets The Gold Of The Day)", which is an uncharted 1945 re-recording instead of the 1933 original - or even the charting 1942 re-recording, for that matter. A bit bizarre that the compilers chose to be uncaring about not only the opening song, but worst of all Bing Crosby's most representative song. In any case, this is the only oddity presented in the 100 tracks.
The sound quality is where it gets interesting - a noticeable compression effect has been applied to all the tracks, which to my surprise, is actually very effective. It manages to reduce most of the hiss present in the "naked" recordings, but at the same time Crosby's voice is hardly affected at all - if not a bit on the low side of the eq spectrum. The orchestrations are also not affected; if anything well highlighted compared to the naked recordings. This compression work should do well for most everyone, except those looking for the full historical picture of the unaltered recordings, but to be honest its sometimes so hard to listen beyond the incredible amount of noise from the unaltered versions that a good remaster of these recordings is a relief. Weather this was a work done by DMG or taken from a more legitimate source is unknown to me.
On the sound quality note, there are a couple of mistakes here and there. For example, the voices peak at moments in a few tracks, specially in "Just One More Chance". There is also some brief ticks present as well as unmatched velocities in very few tracks. These errors do not ruin the songs by any means, but the unevenness may annoy at times. Also, be careful not to apply external EQ - for some reason it goes peaking all over regardless of the EQ applied. To me this is very unprofessional - yet again, I tend not to use EQ, so just be aware (maybe its also just my case, who knows).
DMG's 100 Hits compilations are perhaps the most noticeably illegitimate (and cheap) bundles that one can obtain from pre-60s' artists (obviously for copyright reasons) and aptly each compilation is hit or miss. With this edition of 100 Hits Legends: Bing Crosby, the 5cd bundle can be definitively considered a hit compared to other compilations by the label (e.g. the ill fated Doris Day and Andy Williams releases), but not so much compared to official releases.
To illustrate this lets compare it to the definitive Bing crosby box set in the market, Decca's 4 disc Bing Crosby: His Legendary Years 1933-1957. 100 Hits is a 5 disc compilation that covers almost each of Bing Crosby's years from 1932 to 1957. It contains most of his #1 hits, but not all of them, as some are left in instead of others (e.g. 100 Hits has "Dinah" and "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" while Legendary Years has "The Moon Was Yellow" and "I'm Through With Love"). The same exchange can be seen with other hits throughout the years covered, so up to here its just a matter of preference between the 2 sets.
However, DMG is non chronological and non thematic, jumping from 3 discs that go through mostly 40s' material to a complete set of early 30s' recordings in cd 4, while also being notoriously altered (for the better) in sound quality. Legendary Years, on the other side, paints a chronological, unaltered picture of the aforementioned years, with a better focus on both the 30s' and the 50s', as well as including the original "Where The Blue Of The Night" and "White Christmas", both not present in 100 Hits.
Now for a 5 cd compilation that is less than 15 dollars its still much neater than it needs to be, but as a customer ask yourself; is the extra 20$ difference worth to you? Because keep in mind that Bing Crosby is the most recorded and multi faceted artist of all time, and without a compilation that takes you step by step throughout even an overview, it will be very difficult to get the right picture.