Peggy Lee – At Last The Lost Radio Recordings (review)

Peggy Lee – At Last – The Lost Radio Recordings (Real Gone) review

44 never-before-heard songs by a legendary singer

One of the finest and most versatile vocalists of the 20th century, Peggy Lee was a mainstay on radio in the 40’s & 50’s.  She even hosted her very own Peggy Lee Show on CBS from 1951-52.  At Last – the Lost Recordings compiles 44 songs from the program’s year and a half run.  The amazing thing is that none of these songs have ever been released on a Peggy Lee album, in any form, making this the holy grail for Lee fans.

Even though these tracks were culled from radio transcriptions that were never intended for commercial release, they are of surprisingly good quality.  Don’t let the “radio recording” in the title scare you away; the compilers have removed any crowd banter or applause, making these very close to actual studio recordings.

If there’s one thing that becomes apparent listening to At Last, it’s that Lee had very few equals when it came to sheer versatility.  She swings effortlessly behind the beat on “I Got Rhythm,” and then purrs like a kitten on “And So to Sleep Again.”  She’s playful with the Latin rhythms of “Domino,” weepy on “Did Anyone Call,” and then is drop-dead seductive on “I’ll Never Smile Again” – she had every guy in America glued to her every word.  Her vocal control is a thing of beauty, as she mesmerizes through “Ole Buttermilk Sky” – stretching the phrases, then gets all silky smooth for “When I Fall in Love.”

She also improves on songs that were big hits for others – her cascading take on “Wheel of Fortune” is superior to Kay Starr’s, while “Come On-A My House” reels in some of the silliness of the Rosemary Clooney original.  The set closes with a gorgeous take on “At Last.”

Considering that Peggy Lee spent over 50 years in the music business, it’s a real shock that they were able to find this many songs that had never been put on any of her releases.  Perhaps this could lead to a “Lost Recordings – Volume Two,” and we could hear radio show versions of some of her own hits, like “Mañana,” “Golden Earrings,” and “Why Don’t You Do Right.”  At Last – The Lost Radio Recordings is further proof that Peggy Lee was a phenomenal singer.  Highly recommended for any fan of her music.  —Tony Peters