Various Artists

Rusty Rags: Ragtime Cakewalks & Stomps

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Saydisc's Rusty Rags is a CD reissue of an LP produced in 1974 by arch-discographer Brian Rust in collaboration with the great transfer engineer John R.T. Davies. Certainly tools for the business of extracting hi-fi audio from recordings made in the early 1900s have improved exponentially since the early '70s, though if anyone could do it well at that time it was Davies, and Rust's expertise in ragtime recordings helped to make this disc a standout in the scant number of ragtime reissues then available on LP. It is a tribute to Rust particularly that very few of the selections included here have been reissued on other labels -- mainly the two selections from James Reese Europe's Society Orchestra, which had appeared on a French RCA LP even before Rusty Rags was issued, albeit not in Davies' pristine transfers. Other than Europe, musicians who worked in a live context, in addition to recordings heard here, include banjoists Fred Van Eps and Vess L. Ossman, vaudeville saxophone ensemble the Six Brown Brothers, Sousa's Band and the U.S. Marine Band in a surprisingly syncopated performance of Charles L. Johnson's "Crazy Bone Rag." The rest include Eugene Jaudas Society Orchestra, who recorded primarily for Edison, the Victor Orchestra under Walter B. Rogers, and a number of anonymous studio orchestras. As a collection, Rusty Rags has well survived the changes in intervening decades in regard to what it offers of historical ragtime recordings, the quality of the transfers, and the desirability of the selection. About the only area where it comes up short is in overall length; while its 18 selections was about as much as one could cram onto a 1974 LP, its 46-minute running time may seem like short measure for digital age collectors. Nevertheless, those who decide to take the plunge may well take great delight in both its content and overall quality.

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