The Mills Brothers, "The Best of the Decca Years" (1941-55); Decca/MCA

Although it could be argued that the Mills Brothers' finest sides were recorded in the '30s -- when the group's modus operandi was to mimic the sound of band instruments and to scat sing in overdrive, as though the brothers all had inhaled too much helium-- there is much to recommend in the group's tuneful pop output of the '40s and '50s. Donald Mills' velveteen tenor was never more lush and gorgeous than on "Paper Doll," "Till Then" and "You Always Hurt the One You Love"; his gregarious counterpart, brother Harry, swings easy on "Opus One," "Across the Alley From the Alamo" and "Glow Worm," and Papa John's resonantly melodic basso profundo comes off like a dulcet bullfrog throughout. The voices meld together the way only a close family's can, radiating joy, warmth, camaraderie and an instinct for anticipating one another's next move, be the song a ballad, a blues or a pop chestnut. Classy, brassy and sassy, the Mills Brothers were one of the first black acts to cross over into the mainstream of American music fans, and for good reason: Their graceful sound had universal appeal and remains eminently enjoyable to this day on much more than just a nostalgia level.

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