Various Artists

Unheard Ofs & Forgotten Abouts: Rare And Unheralded Gramophone Recordings From Around The World (1916-1964)

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Very loosely speaking, these 16 tracks -- all taken from the 78 rpm record collection of Frank Fairfield -- might be classified as a combination of rare world, folk, and old-time music. Though perhaps a little more oriented toward the market for folkloric recordings than popular entertainment, it's really too eclectic an anthology to be easily categorized. For the Americana listener, there are country-blues and old-timey sides, but there's also music of various stripes from Scotland, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Tahiti, Bali, Paris, China, and Native Americans. There's even Byzantine liturgical music and an African American sermon from the late '20s. It might be observed, with some justification, that this could be too eclectic an assortment to hold the attention of some listeners. On the other hand, the strength of a compilation such as this is that it brings together music that some open-minded listeners might be unlikely to investigate if the tracks were only found on single-genre or specialist anthologies. It's difficult to focus on highlights here, since they will vary so widely according to taste, but Akumu Odhiambo's "Pius Ogola," from Kenya in the '60s, might well appeal to those looking for some of the more rhythmic, folkier roots of Afro-beat. There's a connection to more modern pop sounds, too, in Hermanos Huesca's "La Bamba" (featuring harp), which according to the liner notes would have been unknown outside of the Vera Cruz region of Mexico if not for this recording's role in popularizing the song. Slim Barton & James Moore's "Poor Convict Blues," from 1929, is extremely rare harmonica-guitar blues (and one of the few cuts where an abundance of surface noise that couldn't be eliminated from the source recording verges on distracting), and (again according to the notes), might well have been an integrated duo. Fairfield's detailed liner notes contain interesting background information about both the recordings and the sociocultural context that gave rise to the styles heard on this CD.

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