Various Artists

Rock & Roll, Vol. 1: 1938-1946

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The story usually goes that rock & roll was born in 1954 when a young truck driver named Elvis Presley opted to sing black blues his way, and there is no debate that Presley became a catalyst for the explosion that became known as rock & roll. But like most explosions, it had been brewing for a while, and this is the case that Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1938-1946 (from the French label Fremeaux) tries to present, drawing together early blues, jazz, folk, and country 78 rpm's in a two-disc package that spans genres and styles. That rock & roll was an evolutionary sponge, soaking up elements of all of these music strands, is obvious, but pinpointing exact musical ancestors can be tough. It is difficult to imagine, for example, some of the artists collected here as proto-rockers (Louis Armstrong, Gene Autrey, Django Reinhardt), but it is also hard to deny that they had some influence on rock & roll, since everything seems to have influenced it. In the end, this anthology becomes a case of everybody in the pool, and by getting everybody in the pool, you've definitively proven that there really is a pool. The difficulty of proof aside, there are great and classic tracks in this set, including Jelly Roll Morton's "Georgia Swing," Henry Thomas' wonderfully archaic medley on "Old Country Stomp,"Django Reinhardt's "Stompin' At Decca," Louis Armstrong's "Swing That Music," Grayson & Whitter's "Train 45," and the Memphis Jug Band's loopy "Sun Brimmers Blues," making this a tremendous collection of vintage 78s. Does it make a convincing case for being the roots of rock & roll? Jump in, because the water's fine.

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