The Phonographic Yearbook: 1912 "Waitin' on the Levee" is an installment in Archeophone's continuing series of historical reissues of popular songs in original recordings organized by year. The Phonographic Yearbook discs include extensive notes about the performances, the artists, and a summary of historical events within a given year: the 1912 presidential election and the sinking of the ocean liner "Titanic" are the events brought into focus here. The musical selection is influenced to a great extent by the lists compiled by Joel Whitburn for his book Pop Memories: 1890-1954, a reference volume that is not taken very seriously by many scholars for years going this far back. But this does not mean that the resulting Archeophone disc is not representative of the era which it depicts, and the overall packaging is superbly well organized.
There are several standout tracks here, particularly those by the American Quartet, Fred Van Eps, Bob Roberts, accordionist Guido Deiro, and those tracks utilizing the talents of Ada Jones. Experienced collectors will notice that some of these tracks have been reissued before on either LPs or CDs. As all of these transfers are original, one consideration would be how the Archeophone disc stacks up against the competition. In the case of Al Jolson's "That Haunting Melody," the Archeophone transfer is definitely preferable to that featured on the long-deleted Victor Vintage LP, Originals: Musical Comedy 1909-1935 [RCA Victor LPV-560]. The Archeophone disc, however, fares less well in its Enrico Caruso transfer of the popular song "Love Is Mine," which has been reissued several times. Also, one wonders why Archeophone couldn't find a better copy of [Victor 87107], Alma Gluck and Louise Homer's recording of "Whispering Hope," a rather common 78 of the 'teens. Incidentally, the Olive Kline and Elsie Baker recording of "Whispering Hope" on [Victor black label 17782] is far more common, and probably the "hit," though it was not recorded until 1914.
The sound is generally very good, with some tracks being splendidly transferred and relatively few others a wee bit noisy -- there is certainly nothing here that will prove tremendously uncomfortable as a listening experience. If you are interested in the American Popular music of 1912, then this is for you.