|Personnel: Betty Hutton (vocals); Betty Hutton; Dinah Shore, Pat Morgan, Perry Como, Phil Harris & His Orchestra, Tony Martin (vocals); Spike Jones (horns); Emil Newman, Henri Ren? & His Orchestra, Mitchell Ayres & His Orchestra, Nelson Riddle & His Orchestra, Paul Weston & His Orchestra, Pete Rugolo & His Orchestra, The Four Hits, Joe Lilley & His Orchestra.
|British reissue label Sepia Records, which specializes in unlicensed collections of out-of-copyright recordings (and in Europe, that means anything recorded more than 50 years ago), bases this Betty Hutton compilation on the eight-track 10" LP soundtrack album for the film Somebody Loves Me, released in 1952 by RCA Victor. Those eight songs make up Tracks 14 through 21 on the CD. The motion picture Somebody Loves Me was a biography of the vaudeville stars Blossom Seeley (played by Hutton) and Benny Fields (played by Ralph Meeker, whose singing voice was dubbed by Pat Morgan). It was also Hutton's last film as a major movie star; she got into a dispute with Paramount Pictures by demanding that her new husband, choreographer Charles O'Curran, be hired as the director of her next project, and the studio decided that at the advanced age of 31, she was dispensable. Nothing about Somebody Loves Me would have dissuaded the studio executives from this view, although Hutton sings the combination of period tunes and some newly written songs by the likes of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans well enough. Musically, it's really not her sort of project, failing to make the best use of her famous manic energy. By adding 17 tracks before and after the Somebody Loves Me material, Sepia demonstrates Hutton's evolution as a recording artist. She was one of the few movie stars who maintained a concurrent recording career, and Sepia goes back to the start of her contract as one of the first signings of newly formed Capitol Records (and that isn't all the way back to the beginning, either). The selection includes some but not all of her hits, with, for example, her Top Ten rendition of "It Had to Be You" and the chart-topping "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief," but not the equally successful "His Rocking Horse Ran Away," "Stuff Like That There," or "I Wish I Didn't Love You So." Instead of using Hutton's Top Five duet with Perry Como on "A Bushel and a Peck," Sepia includes the B-side of that single, "She's a Lady." Though sometimes puzzling, the selection lives up to Tony Middleton's description in the liner notes: "Betty Hutton favourites, spiced up with some rare titles that were probably last seen spinning around the turntable at 78 rpm." The shouting, screaming, out-of-control Hutton, a human sound effects machine, is definitely to be heard on several of these tracks, which demonstrate that Kurt Cobain and Nirvana didn't invent that soft/loud arranging style; Hutton can coo with the best of them, but she may explode at any moment in a song like "Orange Colored Sky" or "It's Oh So Quiet!" Yet she is tamed in the Somebody Loves Me material, and the album's final six tracks, chronicling her return to Capitol Records in 1953, find her cutting demure singles with tame arrangements by Nelson Riddle. Angling for a nightclub and concert career after her Hollywood days, she handles these songs well, but it's hard not to long for the excitement of her earlier work. ~ William Ruhlmann