Consumer Guide Album
Fred Astaire: Top Hat: Hits From Hollywood [Columbia/Legacy, 1994]
Cut in 1952 with a skilled Oscar Peterson sextet, Verve's Steppin' Out: Astaire Sings is the class entry, but I much prefer this unabashed slice of nostalgia, recorded in the mid-'30s with various cheesy dance bands (and the occasional tap solo). Pushing 40, Astaire still sounds boyish--his perilously slender voice embodies the naive sophistication he invented, and from it he extracts a wealth of true notes and meanings. For all his commitment to pitch, there's something very rock and roll about the way he transcends his disadvantages with smarts, personality, and rhythmic savvy. No wonder Berlin and the rest preferred him to the orotund competition--with no tonsils to show off, he devotes himself to the songs, and he owns them.