So called “death discs,” commercial recordings dealing with fatal car and train wrecks, shootings, hangings, doomed and drowning lovers, and myriad other tragedies, have been around since the advent of recording (and long before that -- there are countless ancient ghost-filled old ballads floating around in the Appalachians and elsewhere), and whether they’re maudlin, nostalgic, macabre, tragic, romantic (think Romeo and Juliet), or just plain silly, they serve as cautionary tales of a sort, and we remain fascinated by them. This two-disc set collects 52 of these death discs, going as far back as 1914 and running through 1960, and it’s a surprisingly varied playlist, given the gloomy nature of the subject matter, with classic sides from Vernon Dalhart (“Wreck of the Old ‘97” from 1924), Louis Armstrong (a majestic “St. James Infirmary” from 1928), Lena Horne (“Frankie and Johnny” from 1946), Red Foley (“Old Shep” -- yep, all good dogs go to Heaven -- from 1949), Donald Woods & the Vel-Aires (“Death of an Angel” from 1955), the Four Freshmen (“Their Hearts Were Full of Spring,” also from 1955), Gene Vincent (“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” from 1960), and many others. No, it’s not a particularly cheerful set, but in a way it is -- one can’t help but think “well, I’m still here” while listening to it, and it’s all pretty fascinating in a graveyard humor kind of way.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2