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Various Artists: Unheard Ofs & Forgotten Abouts: Rare And Unheralded Gramophone Recordings From Around The World (1916-1964)

Track List

>Hundred Pipers-Miss Drummond of Perth Sleepy Maggie - Pipe Major Forsyth and Drums
>Yagi-Bushi, Yanre-Bushi - Kamemaru Sunakawa
>Poor Convict Blues - Slim Barton
>Pius Ogola - Akumu Odhiambo
>Sondiata - Sudanese Wandering Minstrels
>Bamba, La - Hermanos Huesca
>Arato Csásdás - Sándor Németh's Gypsy Orchestra
>Campbells Are Coming - Ed Goodreau/Tommy Dandurand
>Ama Ama - George "Tautu" Archer
>Rondo Karang Toeri - Goerit Grisee/Bok Djam
>...Fox Chase - Charlie Bowman/Al Hopkins
>Kongshoung Niaoyu - Professor Liu Tianhua
>Pied Dans L'eau, Un
>Natepa Yion - Chanter P. Manea With Choir
>By the Pool of Siloam - Rev. Frank Cotton

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

"About a century before recordings from around the world were a click away from anybody's laptop, it took some effort to record and collect indigenous songs from Africa, Asia or even remote parts of the United States. There have been some particularly good CD compilations of these 78s, like the Americana collection The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (Yazoo), and this one packs together a great international range of these early field recordings. These gramophone 78s are dated from 1916 to 1964 and came from collector Frank Fairfield, who produced the disc. Scottish bagpipers, Indonesian tembang singers and rural French accordionists sit alongside an Appalachian fiddler (recorded in '20s Chicago). No real overarching theme or concept to this collection, but it's always intriguing to hear regional sounds from a time before mass communications amped up homogeneity. The 78-to-digital transfers sound vivid and the liner notes are thoughtful and engaging." -DownBeat

Album Reviews:

Pitchfork (Website) - "These old records carry the marks of their many years, which give them each a unique character."

Record Collector (magazine) (p.100) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Many sound like alien transmissions from another time but all are explained in loving detail by Fairfield as part of this truly unique magical mystery tour."

Album Notes

Liner Note Authors: Frank Fairfield; Mason S. Philip.

Editor: Frank Fairfield.

Photographer: Tommy Mose Abbott.

Translators: Juan Martinez; Jon Ward; George Vrettos; Dulcie Gonzalez; Don Ong; Johana Susanto; Hestia Sartika; Marea Boylan; Ulawi Otieno; Sunoko Lin; Michael Kieffer.

Very loosely speaking, these 16 tracks -- all taken from the 78 rpm record collection of Frank Fairfield -- might be classified as a combination of rare world, folk, and old-time music. Though perhaps a little more oriented toward the market for folkloric recordings than popular entertainment, it's really too eclectic an anthology to be easily categorized. For the Americana listener, there are country-blues and old-timey sides, but there's also music of various stripes from Scotland, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Tahiti, Bali, Paris, China, and Native Americans. There's even Byzantine liturgical music and an African American sermon from the late '20s. It might be observed, with some justification, that this could be too eclectic an assortment to hold the attention of some listeners. On the other hand, the strength of a compilation such as this is that it brings together music that some open-minded listeners might be unlikely to investigate if the tracks were only found on single-genre or specialist anthologies. It's difficult to focus on highlights here, since they will vary so widely according to taste, but Akumu Odhiambo's "Pius Ogola," from Kenya in the '60s, might well appeal to those looking for some of the more rhythmic, folkier roots of Afro-beat. There's a connection to more modern pop sounds, too, in Hermanos Huesca's "La Bamba" (featuring harp), which according to the liner notes would have been unknown outside of the Vera Cruz region of Mexico if not for this recording's role in popularizing the song. Slim Barton & James Moore's "Poor Convict Blues," from 1929, is extremely rare harmonica-guitar blues (and one of the few cuts where an abundance of surface noise that couldn't be eliminated from the source recording verges on distracting), and (again according to the notes), might well have been an integrated duo. Fairfield's detailed liner notes contain interesting background information about both the recordings and the sociocultural context that gave rise to the styles heard on this CD. ~ Richie Unterberger


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