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October 26, 2004
Vocal Music, Gospel, American Popular Song, Traditional Pop

Album Review

This double-disc set is one of the more bountiful compilations gleaned from Mitch Miller's voluminous Columbia Records catalog. Unfortunately, the contents of 50 All-American Favorites (2004) have been confined to the years 1958 to 1962, during which time Miller's unconventional performance style was on its final descent. Mitch Miller & the Gang consisted of Miller fronting a full choral ensemble of vocalists who sang in unison. As the bandleader was also the concurrent head of Columbia Records' Artists and Repertoire, he was able to use his business savvy and influence to flood the market with a seemingly endless stream of thematic releases. The long-players were filled with familiar popular music, folk, seasonal, and patriotic standards and often came with removable singalong lyric sheets that could be distributed for the purpose of audience participation. As remarkable as it might seem from the perspective of a modern pop listener, Miller and company garnered no less than 19 Top 40 singles by 1958 -- the point at which the anthology begins. That is one reason that none of Miller's best-known sides are included -- although every entry provides a clear indication of the Gang's straightforward material. A glance at the track list yields the most obvious examples of the undeniably ersatz and otherwise unimaginative fare. From the American heartland songbook comes the practically anticipated "Home on the Range," "My Melancholy Baby," "Ain't We Got Fun," and the occasional medley combining the likes of "School Days" with "Sweet Rosie O'Grady" and "Sidewalks of New York." A few of the selections from the God and Country files are "Rock of Ages," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," and "Beautiful Ohio." Of course there are scores of wholesome early 20th century classics such as "Goodnight, Irene," "Red River Valley," "Down by the Old Mill Stream," "Carolina in the Morning," "Tea for Two," and "Bye, Bye Blackbird," among them. For those wishing to find a disc with Miller & the Gang's "hits," both the 15-cut Greatest Hits (1999) or 16 Most Requested Songs (1988) are worth searching out. Parties looking for specific album titles should be aware that the Collectables label has issued Mmmmitch!/Music Until Midnight (2000), More Sing-Along With Mitch/Still More! Sing-Along (2001), and It's So Peaceful in the Country/European Holiday (2003) as two-fer CDs.
Lindsay Planer, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. You Are My Sunshine
  2. Home on the Range
  3. My Darling Clementine
  4. Red River Valley
  5. When Johnny Comes Marching Home
  6. When the Saints Come Marching In
  7. Medley
  8. On Top of Old Smoky
  9. Medley
  10. My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
  11. Medley
  12. Medley
  13. Medley
  14. Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair
  15. Medley
  16. By the Light of the Silvery Moon
  17. Down by the Old Mill Stream
  18. Medley
  19. Medley
  20. When the Red, Red Robin' Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along
  21. I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover
  22. Side by Side
  23. Ain't We Got Fun
  24. Bye Bye Blackbird
  25. Swanee
  26. Medley
  27. Sweet Georgia Brown
  28. Carolina in the Morning
  29. Medley
  30. Medley
  31. I Love You Truly
  32. I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now
  33. The Gang That Sang "Heart of My Heart"
  34. Indiana
  35. My Melancholy Baby
  36. Beautiful Ohio
  37. K-K-K-Katy
  38. Somebody Stole My Gal
  39. When You Wore a Tulip (And I Wore a Big Red Rose)
  40. The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi
  41. By the Beautiful Sea
  42. I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles
  43. Tea For Two
  44. Medley
  45. Medley
  46. Medley
  47. Rock of Ages
  48. Battle Hymn of the Republic
  49. Goodnight, Irene
  50. Till We Meet Again