Ann Shelton: Her 52 Finest, 1940-1960

Retrospective offer two CDs of nostalgic orchestral pop, well sung and well played by jazz-related bands, though the jazz content is minimal


Not for the first time I find myself wondering with this release who Retrospective are targeting. Not that it’s sub-standard in any way – on the contrary, it’s an excellent album and one that I enjoyed immensely, but the fact remains that, along with Vera Lynn, Ann Shelton was known as a forces’ sweetheart, as in armed forces, as in WWII – a war that ended some 78 years ago. Anyone who was around in those years will now be an octogenarian or better, and how many octogenarians, I wonder, are buying albums?

On the other hand, this is Shelton’s centenary – she was born Patricia Jacqueline Sibley, in Dulwich, 10 November 1923 – and it’s nice that Retrospective have chosen to mark the occasion with this album. I have a lot of time for this Retrospective and I’m pretty certain that if I live long enough they’ll release at least one CD of every vocalist I’ve ever admired.

Of the 52 tracks assembled here, 38 were recorded in the 1940s, the lion’s share with Bert Ambrose and his orchestra. Ambrose had selected Shelton to replace Vera Lynn as his principle vocalist in 1940, which was not unlike the way Dick Haymes replaced Frank Sinatra, with both Harry James and Tommy Dorsey.

These are rich pickings and everyone will have their own favourite, whether it be I’ll Be Seeing You, Silver Wings In The Moonlight, My Silent Love, or even my own selection, I Remember The Cornfields. All are performed in that distinctive and unmistakable timbre that propelled her to the top of the tree in the war years and it’s easy to understand why Glenn Miller invited Ann to sing with his band. She was particularly associated with the RAF (He Wears A Pair Of Silver Wings, Comin’ In On a Wing And A Prayer) yet she contrived to include all three branches of the armed forces, e.g., with Lay Down Your Arms, Sailor. Retrospective have done her proud with this release and I hope that many of her admirers still with us get to savour it as I did.

CD1: Lili Marlene; Begin The Beguine; A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square; Fools Rush In; I’ll Never Smile Again; Blueberry Hill; My Echo, My Shadow, And Me; Only Forever; He Wears A Pair Of Silver Wings; My Yiddishe Momma; St Louis Blues; There Goes That Song Again; Daddy; While The Music Plays On; The Last Time I Saw Paris; I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire; Kiss The Boys Goodbye; I Know Why; I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time; I Don’t Want To Walk Without You; Blues In The Night; Hey, Mabel; Nightingale; At Last; Ev’ry Night About This Time. (79.13)
CD2: Lay Down Your Arms; At The Crossroads; As Time Goes By; You’ll Never Know; Comin’ In On A Wing And A Prayer; Silver Wings In The Moonlight; We Mustn’t Say Goodbye; Swinging On A Star; I’ll Be Seeing You; In The Still Of The Night; On The Atchison, Topeka, And The Santa Fe; The Anniversary Song; A Rainy Night In Rio; My Silent Love; Be Mine; Galway Bay; Put Your Shoes On, Lucy; I Remember The Cornfields; The Loveliest Night Of The Year; Kiss Of Fire; I Talk To The Trees; Answer Me; Arrivederci, Darling; Seven Days; Volare; The Village Of St Bernadette; Sailor (79.59)
Shelton (v); with the orchestras of Bert Ambrose, Arthur Young, Jay Wilbur, Wally Stott, Stanley Black; Bob Farnon, Tutti Camarata; Ray Robinson, Harry Groves, Frank Cordell, Geoff Love.
Retrospective RTS 4409