When Louis Armstrong had an unexpected number one hit in 1964 with "Hello, Dolly!," it vaulted him to a new level of popularity with mainstream pop listeners. He never did have another big U.S. hit single, but throughout the rest of the '60s, he was a familiar name to all audiences, not just jazz fans. This two-CD collection is a thorough retrospective of this phase of his career, combining the albums Hello, Dolly!
(from 1964), Mame
(from 1966), and What a Wonderful World
(from 1968). Also on hand are four bonus tracks, some rare, including "The Three of Us" (issued on a European EP), the 1968 single "Life of the Party"/"The Kinda Love Song," and "We Have All the Time in the World," used as the theme for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service
. No one, of course, would put this material on the level of Armstrong's finest achievements as a jazz musician. But if you're unconcerned with stacking this up against his recordings as a genius innovator, and just want to enjoy his time as a jovial, gravel-voiced senior interpreter of pop standards, it's certainly a good-time listen on that level. Even so, it might be too much of a good thing, the focus falling on Armstrong's hammy vocals and more mainstream arrangements than he used for the vast majority of his career. You do get to hear some of his own compositions, however, as well as a number of small hit American singles that followed in "Hello, Dolly!"'s wake, like "I Still Get Jealous," "So Long Dearie," and "Mame." "What a Wonderful World
," of course, eventually became one of his most famous recordings (and even back in 1968 made it to number one in the U.K.), while "We Have All the Time in the World" underwent a massive revival in Britain in the '90s after its use in a TV commercial.