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 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) 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) 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) 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) 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
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