Helen Forrest spent more time and made more recordings with bandleaders Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman, but her two-year tenure with Harry James (1941-43, resulting in only 19 cuts) had the biggest impact on her career. Seven of those 19 tracks made the Top Ten -- "I Had the Craziest Dream," "I've Heard That Song Before," "I Don't Want to Walk Without You," "Mister Five by Five," "I Heard You Cried Last Night," "He's My Guy," and "Manhattan Serenade." No wonder that, as Forrest prepared to launch a solo career in 1943, she was ranked as the top female band vocalist in several polls. Except for a string of duets with fellow James band veteran Dick Haymes that ran through 1946, Forrest's solo career didn't pan out, but her work with James, the big hits, some smaller ones, and some interesting obscurities, confirms that she deserved the accolades. She came into James' band shortly before Pearl Harbor, when the country was already arming for World War II, and the material often reflects the national situation, whether explicitly in numbers like "He's 1-A in the Army and He's A-1 in My Heart," "That Soldier of Mine," and "My Beloved Is Rugged," or in the wistfulness of "I Don't Want to Walk Without You." Forrest captures the conflicting moods of the war, sometimes sounding proud, loyal,...
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