The Ink Spots' Greatest Hits

All but forgotten pioneers of Black music, Bill Kenny and his compatriots were singing R&B in the 1930s and '40s before it was even called that, enlivened by their instrumental skill and signature "talking bass" vocal bridges. Now that the semi-official 1979 compilation If I Didn't Care is all but out of print, intermittent retreads like this somewhat wanting 2012 UK Fabulous release are the easiest way for modern audiences to hear these distant trailblazers croon. Compared to most of the reissues, this album has an incomplete cross-section of their hit singles but includes enough of the hits like "If I Didn't Care," "The Gypsy" and "Java Jive" to please while also throwing in less-well-known versions, covers and B-sides. (Most notable: their version of "You Always Hurt The One You Love," which sounds nothing like Spike Jones' inspired style pastiche; he even added a Hoppy Jones mimic to do the spoken word.) The selection was no doubt budgetary, and the programming sells the band a little short by making them sound more samey than they were, but it's tracks you won't get many other places and a clear stylistic evolution is obvious from the 18 tracks as a whole. What this band needs most is a remaster: the poor quality of their early recordings can be forgiven because of the technology of the time, but this groundbreaking initial incarnation (other, less accomplished, versions followed) deserves better than to disappear into obscurity on the back of bad audio. Unfortunately, however, by remaining the remit of budget outings and special products like this one, and with no one to carry their torch, they still won't get the respect they ought to for as long as they get packaged like this. That's why you should listen to them. (Content: no concerns.)