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Various Artists: High Rollers from Las Vegas

Vegas is back, baby. After a persistent losing streak that saw it forfeiting visitors to other neon-lit Meccas, Sin City is brighter, hotter and busier than ever. For those of us who grew up with images of the Strip as depicted in the Rat Pack romp Ocean’s 11, Vegas has been rendered all but unrecognizable. Gone are the smoky gambling dens of old, replaced by buff, polished behemoths like the Bellagio, the new $2.7 billion Wynn and ersatz replicas of everything from the Manhattan skyline to the Egyptian pyramids. Sadly, these mammoth excesses have also ushered in a slickly overproduced style of entertainment that favors white tigers, Cirque du Soleil gymnastics and the bland warbling of Celine Dion over the hard-swingin’, booze-fueled stage shows that, once upon a time, made a ringside table at the Sands or Sahara seem the height of mink-lined sophistication. If it’s those good ol’ days of Vegas-style showmanship you’re hankering for, this assemblage of centennial discs can, with certain reservations, be just the ticket. Though the quality of the recordings and performances is consistently strong across the series, the relative value of each disc varies enormously. In rank order, ascending from snake eyes to jackpot, here’s the payout:

Given Wayne Newton’s four-decade Vegas dominance, the title Mr. Las Vegas! is accurate enough. Sadly, the disc’s content consists almost entirely of studio recordings, all but three of which are already easily available on other Newton compilations (particularly his entry in Capitol’s 1999 Wild, Cool & Swingin’ series). There are two bonus live tracks-a satiny “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” and a rather toothless “Mack the Knife”-both recorded at Hollywood’s Crescendo in ’64, that do at least provide a wee sense of Newton’s once-vibrant stage appeal.

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