Friends say to me, "You own over 60,000 old records. Why don't you start a CD company and reissue the wonderful 78s that big CD companies won't bother with?" My answer is that two companies, Phonozoic Records and Archeophone Records, produce the kind of CDs that I would issue if I had the time and capital. These CDs could not be better! Transfers are superb. Extensive notes are included with each compact disc, with accurate discographic information supplied for each selection!top
One outstanding Archeophone product is Volume 3 in a series titled The Complete Bert Williams! I always enjoyed the "late" records made by Bert Williams, and I'm now thrilled to have the recordings on a handy compact disc since it saves me the trouble of digging through my boxes of original 78s. The accompanying booklet is superbly written.
My favorite cd among Archeophone's many titles is the new BILLY MURRAY ANTHOLOGY, with 30 tracks documenting the range of this singer's remarkable career. That is a lot of music on one cd!
The first track is "The Way to Kiss a Girl" from 1903, and the last is "It's the Same Old Shillelagh" from 1940, performed with Harry's Tavern Band (originally issued on a Bluebird disc). In between these tracks are twenty-eight other gems, some solo, some with duet partners (Aileen Stanley, Ed Smalle, Ada Jones, Walter Scanlan, others), some with quartet members. The sound quality is marvelous, and the booklet is superb--sheet music covers with Murray's photo, discussions of individual songs, a biography of the singer.
The cd's 24-page booklet also includes an essay titled "A Remembrance of Billy Murray" by Quentin Riggs. When Riggs was a teen, he visited Murray (among other recording pioneers who were still alive), and Riggs must be the only man alive today who can say, "I knew Billy Murray!"
Dick Carty also helped with this project, and Carty is--like Riggs--a Murray expert. This cd is the product of collaboration, and it does full justice to Murray's complex and long career or as much as any one cd can--of course, I would love to see a 10-cd series featuring Murray's work! Archeophone is the right company for such a wild project!
It is a pleasure for me to mention the names of Dick Carty and Quentin Riggs since these two gentlemen helped me more than any other two individuals when I was producing the magazine Victrola and 78 Journal and compiling my encyclopedia of recording pioneers. I'll always be grateful to Carty and Riggs! And I'm thankful that Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey are so dedicated to reissuing--in their thoughtul, systematic manner--great records from the recording industry's early decades.top
Another fascinating compact disc is Archeophone Records' THE 1890s, VOLUME 2, issued in mid-2002. 30 selections on one cd, with a 24-page glossy booklet packed with information about the era!
I especially like "A Hot Time in the Old Town" as sung by Len Spencer (with Vess Ossman on banjo) and "Silver Threads Among the Gold" sung perhaps in 1898 by J. W. Myers (a rare recording--this song, associated with minstrel shows in the 1880s, was not a "hit" in the recording industry until Richard Jose cut it for Victor a few years after Myers).
This cd is the perfect companion cd to the earlier THE 1890s, VOLUME 1, which also features 30 rare tracks. Archeophone products get better and better with each passing year since the booklets are now on high-quality, glossy paper, and the visuals are stunning! For example, the back cover of the Volume 1 booklet includes, among other visuals, a brown wax cylinder, its original Columbia container (with lid), and sheet music of songs included on the cd. These are the kinds of cds that Jim Walsh, the great Hobbies Magazine writer and pioneers expert, would have loved to play again and again!top
From Volume 1 of The 1890s, we can hear Roger Harding, Dan W. Quinn, J.J. Fisher (did you know he left the recording industry to become an insurance agent?), Cal Stewart as "Uncle Josh," George W. Johnson singing his once-famous "Laughing Song" and also "The Whistling Coon" (the lyrics are duplicated in the well-written booklet, which is a delightful bonus!).
Here is Sousa's Band playing, in 1897, the beloved "Washington Post March" (try to find an earlier recording of this!). I love Arthur Collins' version of "I'd Leave My Happy Home for You" and Edward M. Favor's "I Guess I"ll Have to Telegraph My Baby," written by George M. Cohan (I've learned from one of his descendants that Favor was born Edward Addison Favor--not "Le Fevre" as Jim Walsh once reported). Over an hour of rare Berliner discs and brown wax cylidners! Fantastic! If anyone had told me years ago that Roger Harding would be featured on a compact disc that is commercially available, I would have said "Yeah, and I'll have a full head of hair, too!" But Harding is on this cd!
Archeophone Records is an incredibly ambitious company--so much rare material taken from old 78s and cylinders and reissued on compact discs! Pink Lambert cylinders, Bert Williams, the American Quartet, Joseph Natus, Harry Macdonough, Billy Murray, Dan W. Quinn, Sousa's Band, U. S. Marine Band, John Steel, Paul Biese, Collins and Harlan (even Collins and Natus!), Pietro Deiro, Fred Van Eps...the very artists that I would reissue if I owned a compact disc company!top
Last month I played on a regular basis a cd that reissues records from 1912, the year of the Titantic. Excellent! The full title of this cd is 1912: Waitin' on the Levee--66 minutes, artists including Bob Roberts ("Ragtime Cowboy Joe"--this was supposedly a "hit," but it isn't very easy to find), Fred Van Eps ("Red Pepper--A Spicy Rag"), Billy Murray as solo artist (several "hot" numbers), Billy Murray as a member of the American Quartet (several more "hot" numbers, including "Everybody Two-Step" and "The Ragtime Violin"), Billy Murray as a member of the Heidelbert Quintet (the upbeat "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee"--this is the American Quartet with countertenor Will Oakland adding a fifth voice), Ada Jones, Al Jolson, Charles W. Harrison (this tenor is ignored by other companies), Fred Van Eps, Alma Gluck, Guido Deiro, even Enrico Caruso...the list goes on!
Archeophone Records is my idea of a perfect cd company, everything issued being first-rate! There are no "dogs" in the Archeophone catalog. The company is operated by Richard T. Martin and Meagan Hennessey. I hope collectors everywhere support their efforts. You can do that by buying a CD or two. I'll describe a few more.top
Let's consider the 18-page booklet included in Real Ragtime, yet another Archeophone cd. This reissues Vess L. Ossman, Arthur Collins, Sousa's Band, Billy Murray, Gene Greene, and several others who cut numbers with "rag" or "ragtime" in the song's title. Wonderful and rare visuals, too!
Ever see a copy of "You're Talking Rag-Time" on Berliner, featuring the young Arthur Collins? In the booklet is a fine photograph of it. The recording itself is reissued on the CD (track 15). This was from the days when "ragtime" wasn't one word yet! Another visual: the label for Victor 3263 featuring Sousa's Band performing "Hu-la Hu-la Cake Walk" (again, this is early--"cakewalk" had not become one word yet!).
I suppose we could quibble about the CD's title, Real Ragtime. Ragtime scholars could say that half the numbers represented here are not true ragtime compositions but are instead Tin Pan Alley's versions of ragtime, or attempts by Tin Pan Alley composers to cash in on a ragtime craze by adding "rag" to song titles. After all, George M. Cohan's "Rag Babe" is not a true rag. But who cares?
"You're Talking Ragtime" is one of the best performances Arthur Collins ever gave, and I'm thankful to find it on a compact disc! Likewise, "Ragtime Temple Bells" is not really ragtime--it only has the word "ragtime" in its title. But what a performance! This is Billy Murray at his best!top
Recently I've been listening to the CD titled Before Radio. It is subtitled "Comedy, Drama & Sound Sketches, 1897-1923." Lots of comic skits, minstrel records, comic monologues, with virtually nothing here having been reissued before. You can hear on this one CD many of the artists who helped the record industry get on its feet: S. H. Dudley, the Haydn Quartet, Charley Case, Ada Jones (with Steve Porter on "The Piano Tuner," with Arthur Collins and the other Peerless Quartet members on "Pussy Cat Rag"), Burt Shepard (I love his comic monologue about getting to a town called Morrow!), Cal Stewart, Len Spencer, Russell Hunting, and others.top
I marvel at the detailed essay and fine visuals included with the CD titled The Pink Lambert. I have never before seen so much information in one place about Thomas Lambert and his cylinder company. The CD is worth the price for the notes alone!
So much rare material, and good copies, too! If Richard and Meagan were to rely on their own collection, I suppose they might eventually run out of good records to reissue. But no fear of that. I see from the notes included with the cds that Richard and Meagan are well-connected in the hobby--that is, they are friendly with many collectors who own clean copies of rare 78s and cylinders. So they can keep the CDs coming.
The company has begun to issue single-artist cds, beginning with the great Marion Harris--all of her Victor sides. This is the first CD to be devoted strictly to her! Before this, CDs had issued only one Harris cut among other cuts of female singers from the 1920s, but Harris deserves fuller treatment, so I am delighted that this Harris CD is out! It even features the late Victor disc she made, her two "electrical" recordings, "Did You Mean It?" and "The Man I Love." Richard and Meagan are also compiling a CD set of Blue Amberols.top
The Phonozoic compact disc, issued in September 2001, is a fixture in my Sony player. Titled How'd You Like to Spoon With Me? (Phonozoic 004), it gathers wonderful vocal numbers from 1902 through 1923, with singers including Billy Murray, Ada Jones, George J. Gaskin, Arthur Collins, Clarice Vance (the rare "Goodbye to Johnnie"), Dan W. Quinn (this is the rare "comeback" record of 1915--Quinn had abandoned his recording career for a decade but returned to the Columbia studio to cut "Beatrice Fairfax, Tell Me What to Do"), Len Spencer, Arthur Fields...as you can see, the most popular and possibly best singers of that era! 27 selections makes this a FULL compact disc! Clean pressings, great sound engineering--you won't get these results with sound at home! I'm very impressed. The booklet has rare photographs of the artists, and the notes are superbly written.
I highly recommend the above Phonozoic CD! Visit www.phonozoic.com
The company has issued other CDs, such as Phonozoic's Crazy as a Loon. For the first time, years, the once-famous "The Preacher and the Bear," as sung by Arthur Collins, is issued on a CD! The CD features 29 titles, the years ranging from 1897 to 1910, the artists including Len Spencer, Billy Golden, Minnie Emmett, Silas Leachman, Collins and Harlan, Marie Dressler (she sings "Rastus, Take Me Back"), Bob Roberts. Try finding those artists on other CDs! Other titles are "Just Because She Made Dem Goo Goo Eyes," "Cindy, I Dreams About You," "Bake Dat Chicken Pie," Rabbit Hash," and "I'd Rather Be A Minstrel Man Than a Multi-Millionaire." The CD booklet is wonderful, with superb text and great photographs of the artists.
The CDs are produced by Patrick Feaster, a superb sound engineer. He is also well-known on the internet for supervising the "phono-ring," a cycle of phonograph homepages. With this "ring," the best homepages with information about phonographs are linked to each other. Thanks, Patrick!
Two other noteworthy CDs by Phonozoic Records are I'm Making You a Record: Home and Amateur Recordings on Wax Cylinder, 1902-1920, and Under the Double Eagle: Recordings from Habsburg Austria-Hungary.top