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Author Topic: CDs/Sets You're Listening To  (Read 62820 times)

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Offline dj

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CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« on: September 18, 2007, 02:53:09 PM »
After Uncle Bud's latest post in the "Tunes You're Listening To" thread, I just couldn't post this there, so I've started a new thread.   :D

After a long and difficult summer both at work and with rapidly aging parents, I finally was able to take a few days off last week to paint one side of the house.  Of course I needed some entertainment, so I shoved a speaker into a window (who needs stereo with this stuff?) and loaded up the CD changer with some disks from the Document catalog.

One of the things I most enjoyed listening to was the four volumes of the Document "Piano Blues" series that I own - Volumes 1 (DOCD-5192), 2 (5220), 5(5337), and 6 (5645).  Together they make up 4 1/2 hours of music recorded (mostly) between 1927 and 1940.  Most of the artists are totally obscure, with Jesse James and Charlie Segar the only names apt to mean anything to even a fairly serious fan of pre-war blues.  But put together for a morning or afternoon, this set makes a wonderfully varied program.  There are vocals and instrumentals, vaudeville tunes, pop tunes, blues, rags, barrelhouse, and boogies.  There are great singers (Jesse James, for one), and singers who struggle to stay on pitch and to project over the noise of the piano.  There are clever lyrical turns of phrase and verse after verse of stock lyrics, tragic songs, comic songs, and songs filled with pretty crude sexual innuendo ("Sophisticated" Jimmy La Rue would be better named "Smarmy" Jimmy La Rue).  Most of all, there's unending variety.  Most of these artists only recorded two sides; George Ramsey and Charlie Segar sharing the prize for the most titles with eight.  So every 6 minutes or so you're off to a new artist, a new style, new strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies.     

About the only drawback of listening like this is that, spending most of my time on a ladder with a brush in one hand and a paint can in the other, I couldn't follow the discographies to see who was singing and playing on any given cut.   :(

The current audience for the blues is pretty guitar-centric.  Listening to these volumes of "Piano Blues" is an antidote to that.  While necessarily not including major artists or the best that the genre has to offer, they form a virtual encyclopedia of what could (and couldn't quite!) be done with a piano, a voice, and a recording studio in the 1920s and 1930s.
 

Offline dj

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2007, 03:18:17 PM »
Another "program" I enjoyed listening to last week was Document's "Male Blues Of The Twenties", Volumes 1 and 2 (DOCD-5482 and 5532).  These songs were mostly recorded fairly early in the decade, with John P. Vigal's "Fowler Twist" going back to 1922.  The "Blues" in the title doesn't refer to what most people would recognize as blues today, as these are primarily pop, vaudeville, and novelty songs in the "Memphis Blues" or "St Louis Blues" vein, i.e. with blue notes but not, for the most part, 8, 12, or 16 bar blues.  The singers sound like they come out of the vaudeville tradition, not out of the cotton fields, and are, if anything, even more obscure than those on the "Piano Blues" series.  "Sloppy" Henry might be known to some, as he appears on one of the Document Peg Leg Howell disks and has been discussed previously in the Weenie forum.  As with the "Piano Blues" disks, the chief impression one brings from these disks after a few listens is of incredible variety, and of things one doesn't necessarily think of when thinking of "the blues".  There are laughing songs, crying songs, yodeling songs (how the singer of "Sleep Baby Sleep" expects the baby to sleep while he's yodeling to it is anyone's guess), comedy songs, novelty songs, and skits.  One of the things I find most interesting is the last artist on Volume 2, "New Orleans" Willie Jackson.  In his 1926 recordings, he does the usual program for this pair of disks:  some humorous numbers ("Who'll Chop Your Suey When I'm Gone", "Numbers On The Brain", "Hold 'Er, Deacon") and a dance tune ("Charleston Hound"), but by his 1928 session two years later, what we think of today as "the blues" is clearly starting to triumph over the other styles illustrated here, and Jackson is found doing covers of recent hits that would be recognizable as "blues" today: "Kansas City Blues", "T. B. Blues", and "How Long - How Long Blues".  I would always get to that last song on disk 2 and think "An era has just passed".
       
« Last Edit: September 19, 2007, 11:38:30 AM by dj »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2007, 11:22:45 AM »
After Uncle Bud's latest post in the "Tunes You're Listening To" thread, I just couldn't post this there, so I've started a new thread.   :D

Thanks DJ.  ;D  Despite my little outburst (friendly, I hope!) in that thread, I'm always game for "What CD Are You Listening To" threads really, especially if they include great descriptions like you've given us here. For myself, because of a CD player on its last legs, I'm mostly listening to things through iTunes or minidisc these days and am on shuffle mode most of the time. So I'm still focused on individual songs.

I did find a way to listen to the Yazoo CD "Jackson Blues" (Yazoo 1007) earlier today, as noted in the Lonesome Home Blues thread. I guess a lot of this stuff is available on JSP sets in more economical groupings, but it is still great compilation IMO, with Tommy Johnson, Ishmon Bracey, Willie Lofton, Willie Harris, Charlie McCoy, Arthur Pettis etc. I haven't compared the Bracey tracks here with the Document/JSP equivalents, but just listening to them on their own, they sound a bit better - or maybe it's my memory. Will have to A/B them. The Tommy Johnson track Lonesome Home is certainly better.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2007, 11:23:54 AM by uncle bud »

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2007, 12:46:55 PM »
I just listened to the 30-second samples from "Living Country Blues: An Anthology".

That set is currently at the very top of my long, long list of CDs I want to purchase.

Offline dj

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2007, 04:57:05 PM »
Hey, Uncle Bud,

Quote
Despite my little outburst (friendly, I hope!)

Yes, I took it in a friendly way.  I debated for a few days whether to post in the Tunes You're Listening To thread, and had just decided to do so.  I opened the thread, and there was your post saying "single tunes, please".  I was amused by the coincidence.

Quote
especially if they include ... descriptions

I couldn't agree more.  While it's mildly interesting to know what others are listening to, it's downright fascinating to know why they're listening.  I love to hear what caught someone's ear about a song, or a group of songs, because so often that points me to something that I'd never really noticed, or at least not paid proper attention to, before.       

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2007, 10:08:05 PM »


I ordered this one at my local Barnes & Noble and it arrived a few days ago.

I love Charley Jordan's clean picking style and, of course, his voice.


"Hunkie Tunkie Blues" and "Run & Tell Your Daddy" were favorites of mine.

Offline Rivers

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2007, 09:29:09 AM »
You have great taste. For a piano player...  ;)

Cooljack

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2007, 11:42:17 PM »
Im listening to the document Blind Boy Fuller volumes which i've had for some time but never really listened to. At first I wasn't that keen on his style but Im enjoying it more and more as I listen through these CD's, some very nice little songs on there.

Offline dave stott

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2008, 04:52:23 AM »
I recently pulled out the Big Bill Broonzy, Complete Vogue recordings again and I have been enjoying them almost as much as I did the 1st time

Dave

Offline rjtwangs

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2008, 12:05:02 PM »
I'm working my way through 'Shake That Thing, East Coast Blues 1935-1953'. So far it's a great listen...

RJ

Offline dj

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2008, 05:35:54 PM »
I've been ripping my CDs to iTunes lately.  It's a slow job, because I'm entering a lot of discographical and sorting info for each disk.  I've got about 2500 songs ripped so far.  Partly to try out various Smart Playlists and partly to break such a mass of stuff down into manageable sections, I've defined several dozen playlists:  One for each year from 1921 to 1942, one each for various cities, states, and regional styles.

The playlist I'm enjoying the most this week is 1940.  It's relatively small so far - 75 songs, 3.6 hours of music.  It's mostly stuff I would have turned my nose up at as a younger man: the dreaded "Bluebird beat", small ensembles primarily from Chicago, sharing songs, sharing backup musicians, and, as I well knew back then, all sounding alike.  I've realized for a while now that that view is wrong, and listening to this playlist on a random shuffle is ample evidence of just how much really good music came out of that scene. 

A few of the artists included are those whose names will be recognized by most people who stop by Weenie Campbell to browse for a day:  Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie, Sleepy John Estes; those who are somewhat more obscure but enjoy a decent reputation among the cognescenti today:  Walter Davis, Bo Carter; and those who have been bypassed by all but a few dedicated fans: Bill Gaither, Georgia White, Ollie Shepard, and Jimmie Gordon. 

Put together like this, with Bo Carter's 10 tracks the most for any one artist, this mix makes for a really enjoyable program.  Lots of 12 bar blues with piano and guitar, of course, but there's a lot of other stuff here, too.  Jimmie Gordon ("L & N Blues") and Georgia White ("Jazzin' Babies Blues") do covers of "classic" blues from the 1920s.  Gordon also does a cover of the then-current Pete Johnson/Joe Turner boogie "Roll 'em Pete" renamed "Roll 'em Dorothy".  Ollie Shepard gets the hipsters out on the dance floor with "Jitterbugs Broke It Down".

And the backing musicians are a varied and generally first rate.  There are, of course, the usual Chicago suspects, but Georgia White and Ollie Shepard sing with New York City jazz players.  Bill Gaither and Walter Davis have both evolved into excellent instrumentalists  by this point in their careers.  But the thing you really notice is what a strong bunch of singers these are.  A lot of them don't have what the general public today thinks of as "blues voices", but they're uniformly excellent singers, and their voices show off at their best when contrasted against each other like this.  Bill Gaither's light tenor shows off very well against Jimmie Gordon's lower tones, and Walter Davis's relatively flat singing pairs well with Bill Broonzy's enthusiastic singing.             

One of the things that surprised me most about this playlist is how well Sleepy John Estes fits in.  Maybe it's because on his 1940 tracks he has Robert Lee McCoy on very up-to-date sounding guitar and harmonica, but in a program dominated by blues that border on jazz and swing, Estes doesn't sound out of place at all.

Listening to a program like this is almost as good as having the Weenie Juke around.  If only I could get Richard to make me some station breaks and such...    ;D

Offline Rivers

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2008, 05:46:22 PM »
Thanks for that dj. Looks like I'm going to have to go through all the CB stuff in iTunes and set them up like that. I guess you must have RTFM'd more thoroughly than I did before starting to rip your CDs

Offline Slack

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2008, 05:54:10 PM »
Very impressive DJ, I'm loading my CB CDs into iTunes as well - but I don't think I have near the patience you do!

Offline rjtwangs

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2008, 06:34:19 PM »
I'm listening to Clifford Gibson, 'Beat You Doing It' on Yazoo...

RJ

Offline Minnesota Dave

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Re: CDs/Sets You're Listening To
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2008, 12:41:42 PM »
Once the CD sets go into the computer, it's usually iShuffle time. So, I'm listening to everything at once.