Picks and Pans Review: S'wonderful: the Great Gershwin Decca Songbook

updated 09/21/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1998 01:00AM

Various Artists (MCA)

The popular culture knows no higher achievement than the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, and this collection—honoring the 100th anniversary of George's birth—includes 20 memorable performances of those songs.

The project has some built-in shortcomings, limited as it is to artists who recorded on the Decca label (the songs here were cut between 1937 and 1960). That excludes many of the best Gershwin interpreters, including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Linda Ronstadt and Bobby Short. This album does include, however, Sammy Davis Jr.'s swingy version of "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' " from Porgy and Bess, Ella Fitzgerald's "My One and Only (What Am I Gonna Do?)"—recalling Ella's peerless Verve set of Gershwin tunes—and a definitive "Someone to Watch Over Me" by Jeri Southern. There's also "Soon" by the underappreciated Connie Boswell, "But Not for Me" by an especially mellow Bing Crosby and even an unexpectedly thoughtful "They Can't Take That Away from Me" by Teresa Brewer. Whatever isn't here, there's still plenty to enjoy.

Bottom Line: Awful nice, if not quite paradise

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