The music on this disc and its companion, The Whistler and His Dog, grew out of the discovery, in a warehouse on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ, of a collection of music associated with the Arthur Pryor Orchestra -- an immensely popular touring band of the early twentieth century that wholeheartedly embraced the ragtime craze. The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra was a group of New York musicians formed to play the music in the collection; these albums, originally released in the late '80s, offer smooth technical command of some altogether delightful music. Both albums mix rags, which at the time were equally popular as piano music and in instrumental-ensemble versions, with various kinds of unsyncopated music. The Pryor Orchestra performed two "Desecration Rags," by Felix Arndt, Nos. 1 and 2; the second one, included on this disc, is devoted to operatic airs while the Symphonic Nightmare: Desecration Rag No. 1 is heard on The Whistler and His Dog. If you only want one disc, The Whistler and His Dog is slightly preferable because of its more detailed notes; the booklet for On the Boardwalk gives only a quick account of the discovery of the materials and does not even list composers for the individual selections. Each disc, however, contains plenty of top-notch music. Sample Slippery Hank, track 9, for an example of a band arrangement that loses none of the rhythmic vigor possessed by a piano player pounding the keys in a noisy honky tonk. But other pieces tone down the energy in favor of subtle effects in the arrangements, which are expertly done. The trio sections of the rag pieces are often set off quite differently from a Sousa march, and the orchestration in general is attractive and fresh. The two medleys here (try the George M. Cohan Medley, track 3) help give a picture of the music that an audience of the time would have known by heart and loved to hear, even in fragmentary form. Both discs are essential for libraries, and either one would be just offbeat enough to make an excellent gift for any bandmember or lover of band music.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim