Personnel: Lou Abelardo, Phil Neely, Eddie Grossbart (vocals, violin); Sam Browne (vocals); Joe Brannelly (guitar, banjo); Bert Ambrose (banjo); Eric Siday, Reginald Pursglove, Ernie Lewis (violin); Joe Jeanette (flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone); Joe Crossman, Danny Polo (clarinet, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone); Dennis Ratcliffe, Sylvester Ahola (trumpet); Ted Heath (trombone); Bert Read (piano); Max Bacon (drums).
Recording information: Chelsea, London, England (05/31/1929-02/19/1930); Liverpool Victoria Hall, London, England (05/31/1929-02/19/1930); May Fair Hotel, Chelsea, London, England (05/31/1929-02/19/1930); The May Fair Hotel, London, England (05/31/1929-02/19/1930).
Director: Bert Ambrose.
Arrangers: Bert Read; Lew Stone.
The British Decca record label was established in early 1929. After creating a handful of experimental unreleased pressings, the highly regarded dance band led by Bert Ambrose became the first such organization to make commercially issued records for this company. Retrieval's Hottest of the Decca 'M' Series presents two-dozen cherrypicked titles from this part of the Ambrose discography, beginning with "A Precious Little Thing Called Love" from April 25 and skipping along chronologically to end upon "I'm on a Diet of Love," which was waxed on February 19, 1930. This is not an exhaustively complete survey of Ambrose on Decca 'M', and the word "hottest" might mean popular and best-selling if not the liveliest or most danceable. Like several other similarly excellent Ambrose collections covering roughly the same period, this set is sprinkled with sweet vocals by Eddie Grossbart, Lou Abelardo, and Sam Browne. While none of these gents measured up to the standard set by the afterwards deified Al Bowlly, each was a capable interpreter of traditional pop songs like "Louise," "Hittin' the Ceiling," and "If I Had a Talking Picture of You." The best thing about vintage Ambrose is the solidity of his band, its star instrumentalists, and the expertly crafted arrangements which enabled the group to swing well before the word "swing" became a tool for mass marketing. The Ambrose band really triumphed during the '30s. These recordings document their ascension to prominence as one of the best dance bands of their time. For that reason, Retrieval's superbly crafted tribute to Ambrose is most highly recommended. ~ arwulf arwulf