Bing Crosby’s On the Sentimental Side is that sort of old-timey goodness that has fuelled many a bingo hall dance among senior citizens. It is a sing-a-long record, without question, and its appeal may be rather limited today. File it under “nostalgia” if you must, but this style was incredibly popular at the time due in large part to Mitch Miller and his Sing Along With Mitch and the Gang series of LPs and TV shows.
In any event, On the Sentimental Side is Bing’s turn at the genre. He actually released a series of sing-a-long records. Starting in 1960 with Join Bing and Sing Along 33 Great Songs, these records were essentially leased to Warner Bros. Records and RCA with Crosby retaining ownership of the masters.
Released by Collectors’ Choice, On the Sentimental Side is a certain gem for Bing purists. The record has existed only in rumours up until this point, but its release now will continue the trends Crosby carried in the 1960s. The record is essentially the intended final Join Bing and Sing project, but it never saw the light of day until archivist Robert Bader discovered it reorganizing Crosby’s catalogue.
The Collectors’ Choice release features 17 tracks, 12 of which are medleys featured on the original recording. Interestingly, the orchestra and chorus for the 12 songs were recorded in London between March 16 and March 19 in 1962. Bing’s vocals were recorded in Hollywood in June at United Recorders, so that gives the record an odd feeling.
The orchestration, provided by the Ivor Raymond Orchestra and Chorus, feels distant and there’s little that can be done to fix that. When the original project was ditched, it was clear that the tracks weren’t synched or mixed properly. Bader’s discovery revealed that Crosby’s vocals sat on one raw tape, while the orchestra mix was elsewhere.
Listening to On the Sentimental Side is going to be a special experience for fans, as these are recordings that have never been heard before. Collectors’ Choice has done a beautiful job bringing them to their release and the extensive liner notes tell the fascinating story of the record’s discovery and eventual release.
Sure, the Sentimental record is the “missing link” in the sing-a-long records. But it’s hard to escape just how dated these songs sound. Naturally the music here is a product of its time and it needs to be viewed in such a context, but Bing’s renditions seem to lack style and sway.
The bonus tracks are a little fresher and crisper and they fit the tone of the original record well. A rare version of “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral” finishes off the collection nicely.
Collectors and purists will love the idea of On the Sentimental Side, but musically it leaves a lot to be desired. As the “missing link” in the Join Bing and Sing series, it’s a must-have for one’s complete Bing collection. But as a starting point for Crosby neophytes, this is certainly the wrong path to take.
Article originally published as Music Review: Bing Crosby – On the Sentimental Side (Deluxe Edition) at Blogcritics.org