This is German label Trikont's new series of imaginative and nicely packaged re-issues of out-of-copyright US 78s from the first half of the last century. What they have in common is good remastering, digipaks with extensive notes in German and English (the latter excellent by Keith Chandler, the former by Werner Pieper would need a German reader to judge but look just as informatively dense), and around two dozen tracks apiece.
The selections are a good balance of the well-known (but possibly not with an existing place in your home) and the wonderfully obscure. The theming is occasionally a little odd - some tracks clutch at subject staws, others simply seem to have simply jumped disc - but nobody's complaining. The fRoots listening panel came down heavily in favour of drugs, sex and rock'n'roll in that order - and in fact the numbering of the series seems to pretty much follow our placings as to desirability.
To give you a taster, #1 has Lord Buckley's pal Harry The Hipster enquiring Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs Murphy's Ovaltine?, Blue Lu Barker's Don't Make Me High and Dick Justice's Cocaine (but wilfully misinterprets the title of Bukka White's Fixin' To Die unless I missed something all these years!); #2 includes The Hoosier Hot Shots' I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones, Lonzo & Oscar's I'm My Own Granpa and the utterly bizarre Viennese Seven Singing Sisters' William Tell Overture; #3 kicks off with Alberta Hunter's You Can't Tell The Difference After Dark and goes via The Light Crust Doughboys' Pussy, Pussy, Pussy to Lucille Bogan's rightly infamous Shave 'Em Dry; #4 has as diverse blues as you can get, from Blind Willie Johnson via Mezz Mezzrow to the Ink Spots with Ella Fitzgerald; #5 is the glorious sound of gospel varieties - Golden Gate Quartet, Soul Stirrers, Sister Rosetta Tharpe - that'll thrill you even if your religion only runs as far as Vols 1 & 3. And then there's #6 which, although it includes favourites like the Golden Gate Quartet's Stalin' Wasn't Stallin', the Southern Sons Quartet's Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition and some heartfelt tracks by Leadbelly and the extraordinary Rev. J.M. Gates, is otherwise far too full of over-sincere ham-acted jingoist kack: useful if you need inducement to vomit but for little else apart from a view on true historical awfulness.
Vols 1 & 2 are definitely indispensable and among the better and more entertaining re-issues of the year. Vols 3, 4 & 5 are pretty desirable too. You can probably skip Vol. 6 unless you're a set work perfectionist, a masochist or George W. Bush.
Distributed in the U.K. by Klang, Tel 01422 842212, or worldwide check

Ian Anderson -- Ian Anderson
Editor: fRoots Magazine


last updated: 21.11.2000 | top