Such is Bill Ramsey's popularity in Germany that it merits a four-CD compilation of his recordings, spanning four decades. Such an extravagant production would be unthinkable in his native United States, where he's hardly a household name or thought of as being in the top ranks of jazz singers. So it's likely the audience for this box will be primarily (and maybe virtually exclusively) in Germany, where those who want Ramsey will get it in bulk on this 100-song anthology. Though Ramsey has recorded in the German language, all of these tracks are sung in English, spanning the beginning of his recording career back in 1958 all the way to the dawn of the 21st century. For the most part, it emphasizes his interpretation of jazz and pop standards, with none of the covers of American rock songs with which he had some success in his early days. He sings with a slightly gravelly voice, and a general sense of a man whose basic amiability is unflappable, on the jazzier and bluesier tunes, and on the more big-band-oriented arrangements. Less successful are his attempts at then-contemporary pop
ock songs of the '70s by the likes of Blood, Sweat & Tears
, Carole King
, Gilbert O'Sullivan
, and Cat Stevens
, which occupy most of disc four; he even tries his hand at classics by Jimi Hendrix
and John Fogerty
. He sounds more at home, however, on numbers that you could hear coming out of a more mainstream-oriented New Orleans-style bar. A little unusually for Bear Family, which is often a stickler for presenting material in chronological or close-to-chronological sequence, the chronological order of the tracks breaks up at the end of disc three (which puts some 1962 and 1965 cuts at the end of the disc after the running order has progressed from 1958 to 1999). The "pop" selection on disc four covers, in chronological order, cuts from 1970 to 1982. This shouldn't bother fans devoted enough to purchase this set, though the basic notes -- an appreciation (in both English and German), rather than a detailed career overview -- are also not typical of Bear Family, which usually has more extensive annotation.