Various Artists

Sissle & Blake's Shuffle Along New World

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Shuffle Along was a major landmark in the history of Broadway productions, as it opened the stage to works by African-Americans. Pianist Eubie Blake and singer Noble Sissle wrote the music and lyrics, respectively, with the book written by the comedy team of Flournoy E. Miller and Aubrey Lyles. Since original cast recordings were unheard of at the time the musical opened in 1921, this LP serves as an archival re-creation of part of the production, which includes original participants Sissle, Blake, Miller, Lyles, and singer Gertrude Saunders. Even with the limited fidelity of the vintage 78-rpm discs that served as source material for this New World compilation, both Sissle's vocals and Blake's ragtime piano are terrific. Paul Whiteman's heavy-handed approach to "Gypsy Blues" hardly compares with the other orchestral tracks. The detailed liner notes by Robert Kimball (adapted from his book Reminiscing With Sissle and Blake) and the inclusion of the lyrics to all of the songs (even those heard only in instrumental form) add to the value of this long unavailable LP.