Picks and Pans Review: Bing: His Legendary Years, 1931-1957

updated 02/21/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/21/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Bing Crosby

Not just a nostalgiafest but a vital musical treat, this four-CD set includes most of the 21 Crosby tracks that sold a million copies as singles during his trail-blazing career. (Missing is the singer's earlier work before he began recording for Decca, ancestor of today's MCA.)

Crosby's jazz influences are particularly apparent in this extraordinarily clean collection, not only in his casual, rhythmically urgent singing style but also in his frequent collaborations with such jazz bands as Woody Herman's Woodchoppers and the Bobcats, a Dixieland group fronted by Bing's brother Bob. The album also includes duets with first wife Dixie Lee, his eldest (and later most estranged) son, Gary, and film costar Mary Martin.

This set is the ideal antidote for those who recall Bing only as a dysfunctional father and wearer of a bad hairpiece. He's not just the guy who made the pop culture safe for Sinatra and Presley. He was the creator of pop music that remains consistently entertaining. (MCA)

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