3 Minute Record

"We learned more from a three minute record baby than we ever learned in school..." -from No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen

Filtering by Tag: recording

Library of Congress debuts The National Jukebox

title of the race-records-catalogue of victor ...

Put away your handful of quarters, nickels and dimes. This month the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. launched a new ambitious project called The National Jukebox.

I first heard about this project earlier this month on NPR. The site is a free archive of sound recordings that documents sounds (music and speeches) recorded at the dawn of the 20th century and allows the listener to stream (but not download) each song via their computer. Still the site garnered interest from the public with over 250,000 visits already.

The Library of Congress spent the majority of 2010 digitizing over 10,000 sides (78 RPM records have one song on each side) from the Victor Talking Machine Company (now under the arm of Sony Music Entertainment) originally produced between 1900 and 1925. The website states that, "The National Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives." As a mission this ambitious project has 

The goal of the Jukebox is to present to the widest audience possible early commercial sound recordings, offering a broad range of historical and cultural documents as a contribution to education and lifelong learning.

Further, this collection will not remain static and stodgy lending credibility continued. The website continues by stating, "New recordings are added to the Jukebox every month. Later this year, we will begin digitizing recordings from additional record labels, including Columbia and Okeh, along with selected master recordings from the Library of Congress Universal Music Group Collection."

First, I clicked on genre and found the Traditional/Country section and near the top was a favorite country standard of mine.

Wreck Of The Old 97 - Vernon Dalhart - 1924 http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.8696789029376122

Next used a search term "St. Louis" and found some interesting hits from an even earlier era. The first song is a classic from the 1904 World's Fair hosted in Forest Park in St. Louis performed here by Billy Murray. A strong tenor voice helped Murray become one of the most popular singers of the first quarter of the 20th century singing into as acoustic recording horn. Murray started out in vaudeville as a teenager and by 1903 he was in the New York area making studio recordings. By the mid-1920s when the electronic microphone came into use, the new sound of crooners eclipsed Murray's sound forever.  

Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie - Billy Murray - 1904 http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.8545572064060243

St. Louis Tickle - Ossman-Dudley Trio - 1906 (Instrumental) http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.4831903982451466

St. Louis Blues - Original Dixieland Jazz Band - 1921 http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.18645644567922426

That Baseball Rag - Arthur Collins - 1913 http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.4422833037025974

As an owner of both a vintage jukebox and my great-grandfather's Victrola, this project intrigues me to no end. The website allows you to make playlists to back and listen to these songs again and again; just like pulling out your old records over and over.

Before reading any articles or news reports, the first thing I thought about when I heard about this project was Joe Bussard's collection of 78 RPM records. Wouldn't it be great to have his collection as part of this rich history of recorded American music?

If you've never heard of Joe Bussard then you're in for a treat. Bussard, the self-professed "King of Record Collectors," is a record collector who started collecting 78 RPM records in the 1950s and 1960s - mostly blues, Cajun, country, folk, gospel, and jazz. He took trips into remote Mid-Atlantic towns near his Maryland home to seek out people who would sell their rare records. Presently, Bussard is an opinionated, cigar smoking old man with a record collection of 78 RPM sides that has few rivals. There is a well done documentary about Bussard called Desperate Man Blues: Discovering the Roots of American Music that gives a nice synopsis of the man and the collection.

Old Hat Records released a compilation of some of Bussard's 78 RPM sides a few years ago on Down In The Basement: Joe Bussard's Treasure Trove of Vintage 78's.

But these will remind others of the collection Harry Smith put together in the 1950s for Moe Asch's Folkways Records called the Anthology Of American Folk Music. Cited by countless musicians as a heavy influence on their work, this collection effectively re-started the entire Folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Kudos to the Library of Congress for taking on such an ambitious project. America's musical heritage is a treasure and worth preserving for future generations to hear.

Footnote: For some reason the ability to embed these songs into the post did not work correctly and I'm not sure why. If you can speak to that issue please let me know.

T-Bone Burnett: Producer, Genius, Witch Doctor

On April 26, Steve Earle releases his 14th studio album, I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, on New West Records. Earle recorded the album in five days with producer T-Bone Burnett. If you are reading any music publication or listening to music these days it seems you can't run through your local Borders without knocking over a display of albums Burnett has produced. Who's album hasn't he produced in the last decade?

Elvis Costello and T Bone Burnett 2

Born in St. Louis on January 14, 1948, but raised in Fort Worth Texas, Burnett puts his unique stamp on an artist's record usually in the area of an American roots rock sound infused with blues, jazz, folk, country and bluegrass. Not much is ever said about his birth in the Gateway City, but it can be surmised that his musical roots might be much different without the Texas influence.

Over the last 40 plus years Burnett has been part of the music scene, but many people who buy records may not have recognized his name until recent years. Burnett started in the music industry in the late 1960's and early 197o's. In 1975, after paying his dues as a studio musician, a big break came as he was asked to tour as a guitarist with Bob Dylan as a member of the Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

In the 1980's, Burnett produced albums by such notable artists like: Marshall Crenshaw, the Bo Deans, Tommy Keene, and two high-profile records by Elvis Costello, King Of America and Spike. He also helped the career of veteran artist Roy Orbison with production of two of his albums and the now famous A Black And White Night Live movie featuring Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, James Burton, and many others backing the Hall Of Fame artist in a one-off concert.

Burnett had some very high points in the 1990's with the Counting Crows 1993 début album August And Everything After , The Wallflowers' 1996 blockbuster hit Bringing Down The Horse and the influential Gillian Welch record, Revival.

His production of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack in 2001 seemed to rocket Burnett's career to another level. On February 27, 2002, Burnett won four Grammys for his work on the soundtrack in the categories of Album of the YearBest Traditional Folk Album and Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. He was also awarded the Grammy as Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. The success of O Brother brought more work in the film industry throughout the last decade in the role of Executive Music Producer on the Civil War based Cold Mountain, the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line and the Jeff Bridges film about an aging Country star, Crazy Heart, among others. In 2008, he produced five albums by other artists and released his own album to boot!

Released last Tuesday, Burnett's recent production credit is Gregg Allman's Low Country Blues, the artist's first solo album in 14 years. The album is Burnett's first production credit of 2011, but he'll have to work hard to beat his outstanding record from last year. A full 10 albums released in 2010 listed him as producer many of which were albums by veteran artists like Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello and the Elton John & Leon Russell collaboration. Burnett is able to pull performances out of these artists that end up being their best work in years.

Albums produced by Burnett have a spacial quality not heard on every record. The mix is not cluttered with sound layers (e.g. numerous overdubs of guitars) allowing the instruments have enough space to breathe on the recording. This technique allows the listener to feel like they are in the room with the band as the song is recorded. That kind of experience brings the listener closer to the song.

On the 2010 John Mellencamp album No Better Than This produced by Burnett, Mellencamp recorded the songs at Sun Studios in Memphis, First Baptist in Savannah, GA and Room 414 at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, TX where blues legend Robert Johnson recorded. They recorded the songs with one ribbon mic from the 1940's on a 55-year-old Ampex tape recorder in just a few takes; sometimes the musicians needed only one take. After the experience Mellencamp remarked to Rolling Stone, "I looked at T Bone and I said, 'What the fuck were we doing in the '80s?'" Mellencamp told the magazine. "I made a record once that took almost a year. I spent millions of dollars dicking around with songs, and in the long run it paid off because it sold millions of copies. But I go back and I listen to the record today, and it was...more of a craftsman thing."

Burnett focuses artists back to the basics and allows them to do what they do best unencumbered by all the unnecessary baggage. We can only hope that he works with more artists in the future and shows them the way.

For more - see this interview given by Burnett to A.V. Club last year.

Recording The Song: The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again

Pete Townshend originally intended "Won't Get Fooled Again" for inclusion as part of his Lifehouse project, a follow up to the band's successful Rock opera Tommy. The band originally tried to record the track at the Record Plant in New York, NY on March 16, 1971, but eventually recorded for the album Who's Next using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, Stargroves, Berkshire, England and Olympic Studios, London, England from April to May 1971. Released the public on June 25, 1971, the largely edited single for "Won't Get Fooled Again" shortened the track to 3:38 for radio! The album release on August 14, 1971, however, retained the full track length at 8:32. Listen here to how the band plays their individual parts to record this classic track.

Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who - Vocal Track

Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who - Synthesizer/Hand Claps/Backing Vocal/2nd Electric Guitar Track

Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who - Guitar Track

Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who - Bass Track

Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who - Drum Track

Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who - Acoustic Guitar/Backing vocal track

Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who - Who's Next (Finished Master Track)