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Third Man's "Paramount Box Set" Not reviewed… We Can't Afford It

5000 copies in existence

While I appreciate Third Man and Revenant Record’s musical archaeology, ” The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1932. ” We can’t afford it at $400 plus for 800 songs ergo 50 cents a song plus box and nearly five years into rock nyc it is somewhat amusing how few resources we have.  Paramount Records was the Wisconsin based early 20th century record company who filed a niche race records whole in musical recordings with names you should recognize even if, like me, you don’t know that much about race records of the 1920s.

According to Grayson Currin of Pitchfork, who did get a copy:  “Sent by post, the 22-pound compendium comes in a wide and thick cardboard box, with the name and address of Paramount’s parent enterprise, the long-extinct Wisconsin Chair Company, branded on the side for the sake of authentic anachronism. Inside, two-inch walls of Styrofoam and a plastic sheath protect what Third Man and Revenant Records, the project’s operational partners, call The Cabinet of Wonder.

The hinged-and-clasped oak Cabinet bears Paramount’s iconic medallion on the outside, an eagle with its wings spread and head cocked, talons locked into the label’s name and positioned in front of a grooved record that suggests a morning’s rising sun. The set smells of varnish and glue and furniture—sweet but a little sour, too. Clasp popped, five distinct layers of wonder follow: a batch of six marbled brown LPs housed in an old-fashioned wooden binder; a velum envelope containing replications of ephemera from the earliest days of the recording industry; a hard-cover volume that tells the story of that troublesome start and its biggest stars; and a phone-book sized catalogue that does its best to detail nearly every performer included and, for the first time ever, name each of the thousands of records Paramount released in its two-decade lifespan.”

Fair enough, but since I can’t afford the gig, what to do? Some of these names are legend: Jelly Roll Morton, Ma Rainey, Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith, are well known to anybody who can be bothered to read this. Others, less so. So I made a list of songs by some of the artists and welcome to the zero resources rock nyc Paramount Records list (plus Spotify so you can hear em if you want:

1. Crazy Blues – Marnie Smith – From 1920, this is a drunker, falling down the stairs horns leading Marnie into a bluesy heartbreaker as Marnie’s man doesn’t treat her well – B+

2. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out – Bessie Smith – Vocal tour de force jazz-blues giant and an American standard in its earliest incarb=nation, by a woman whose voice is pure emotion – A+

3. West Coast Blues – Blind Blake – Acoustic guitar strumming and spoken vocal – A-

4. Black Snake Moan – Blind Lemon Jefferson – Terrific vocal over a finger picked riff leads the way to Elvis Presley decades later – A

5. Booze And Blues – Ma Rainey – Where jazz meets blues meets alcoholism  – A

6. I Got Rhythm -Ethel Waters – Classic Gershwin given early interpretation, with such a perfect lyric her improv is a little off putting but her scatting perfect – A

7. You Put In In, I’ll Take It Out – Papa Charlie Jackson – Stingy women? It’s all the benjies – A

8. Untitled – Ernest V. Stoneman Trio – Fiddlers delight – B+

9. Moanin’ Low – Alberta Hunter With Lovie Austin’s Blues Serenaders – Full jazz and swings low with a top notch blues singer on top – A

10. Black Bottom Stomp – Jelly Roll Morton – Cool dance song – A-

11. You’ve Got To Be Modernistic – James P. Johnson – Fabulous piano stomping – B+

12. Milwaukee Blues – Charlie Poole – Country blues trying to get home – A

13. Big John’s Special – Fletcher Henderson – Jazz in the swing era built for dancing – B+

14. Bad Boy – Ed Bell, Barefoot Bill – Southern blues justa  guitar and a voice wailing in sorrow – A

15. Quartette Blues – Barbershop blues – B+

16. Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night – Viola Bartlette – Bump and grind as Viola throws her cheating man out – B+

17. My Daddy Rocks Me – Trixie Smith – Salacious stuff: “I looked at the clock and the clock struck one, I said Daddy ain’t we got fun” – A+

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