The Roaring 20's

Jazz Age Music on CD
A Victrola

1920's music seems to be growing more popular as evidenced by the number of recordings reissued on CD in recent years. While it is still very difficult to find recordings made between the Ragtime and Swing eras there are a few notable exceptions. Unless otherwise noted, all recordings in this list have a true 1920's flavour - no Swing or easy listening music here.

"Most of these should be avaialable from any large record shop. Another place you can find 20's music is by buying cassettes checking out these links to people who have copied some of the great 78's of the era onto cassette.

Below is a list of my personal favorite CDs. You can view each CD's track list with all duplicate tracks noted or just view all tracklists at once. Some tracks have MP3 previews, look for the [play] icon in the track lists.

  • Nipper's Greatest Hits - The 20's
    If you own just one CD of this era this should be the one. Includes the white society Charleston, playful numbers like Let's Misbehave, and Helen (of the Skabs) and my favorite The Varsity Drag. All in all it's a good overview of the music of the 20's. This CD is also probably the easiest one to find.
    (RCA Victor 2258-2-R) Track List
  • The Roaring 20's
    Another CD with a 20's 'feel'. This one is interesting in that it alternates original 78 recordings with modern transcriptions of piano rolls. Highlights of this CD include an interesting rendition of the Charleston (complete with banjo!) and the most upbeat version of Ain't Misbehavin' that I've ever heard. Highly recommended.
    (Saydisc CD-SDL 344) (MP3 previews)Track List
  • Shake That Thing!
    This CD has a good mix of typical tunes from the era. One thing I like about this CD is that it mixes weel known tunes from the era (such as Swanee and Wabash Blues) with some lesser known ones. I think a number of the tracks (Shakin' The Blues Away, Melancholy Lou, Shake That Thing, and Bugle Call Rag, to be specific) are particularly good.
    (Living Era/Academy Sound and Video CD AJA 5002) Track List
  • College Rhythm
    This CD is just what it claims to be; a collection of music that was popular with the collegiate types back in the 20's. In my opinion, this CD takes the 'collegiate' theme a bit too far, but none the less it's a great upbeat collection and does include the top college bands of the era (George Olsen, etc.). If you're looking for a CD full of upbeat dance tracks, this is probably a good choice.
    (Memphis Archives MA7021) Track List
  • Josephine Baker - Breezin' Along
    It's Josephine Baker; isn't that reason enough to get this CD? A great collection of tracks from arguably the sexiest singer of the era. If you like her singing you'll love this collection. Get it.
    (Legacy/Columbia CK 57740) (MP3 previews)Track List
  • George Gershwin Memorial Concert
    This is a really interesting CD. A recording of a live concert in memory of George Gershwin, it was made shortly after his death and features some of the top performers of the era including Al Jolsen, Nat Shilker, Victor Young, Fred Astaire, Oscar Levant and Lily Pons. Beyond historical interest, what's nice about this recording is that it features the top artists of the day performing selections that cover the full range of Gershwin's works. Overall, the quality of the recording is quite good considering its age, though it should be said that there are a few technical problems owing to deterioration of the original recording. These imperfections are very few and brief and in no way detract from the quality of the majority of the recording. This CD is an Italian import and as such might be hard to find. This CD is well worth getting if you can find it.
    (Radio Years RY9) (MP3 previews)Track List
  • W.C. Handy's Memphis Blues Band
    Though these recordings are relatively early (1917 - 1923) I think they still embody much of the 'feel' of the era. This is also a choice if you want to know what the Blues sounded like before it was absconded and bastardized in later years (all IMHO of course ;^) One of my favorites.
    (Memphis Archives MA7006) (MP3 previews)Track List
  • Jazz Dance Music 1923 - 1941 (2 CD set)
    What can I say about this set; it's French (ah, the Brit in me shines through...). The first CD has a number of interesting tracks such as the original black version of the Charleston (try finding that somewhere else), and a different take on The Varsity Drag than you'll find elsewhere. What I really like about this set (and note that it took the French to acknowledge it) is that it does a decent job of presenting the black roots of the music of this era; something that most other collections neglect to do. Be forewarned though, the black dance tunes were a lot slower than the white 'society' versions, so if you're looking for the latter, something like Nipper's Greatest Hits -The 20's or College Rhythm might be more to you're liking. Unfortunately, unless you're into (1930's & 40's) swing, really interested in the roots of the era's music, or flush with cash I'm afraid I can't recommend this set. One of the two CD's in the set is pure Swing, and even the first CD is a bit lacking in Jazz Age tunes. Add to this the cost (a 2 CD set imported from France), and it doesn't look like such a great choice. That being said, if you are into swing, and can afford it, you might want to check it out.
    (Frémeaux & Associés FA 037) Track List




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