Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

This collection of lost 1920s-1940s 78rpm records was personally collected and arranged by R. CRUMB, and sets a pretty high bar with regard to who gets to participate. First, they have to be female. Next, they need to be from the 78rpm era. Then, they need to be “from the torrid regions of the world” -- we’re talking way balmy at the very least: Mexico, the Caribbean, Burma, Tunisia, Greece etc. Finally, they need to be good. It is only on this last criteria, regrettably the most important, that the collection somewhat breaks down. The ethnomusicologist in you will forgive a lot of the mediocre or grating tracks – ROSINA TRUBIA GIOIOSA of 1927 Sicily, come on down! – and you’ll find that a lot of these women had either lovely voices or terrific, interesting backing musicianship. Perhaps that's enough. I’m especially partial to the Latin/South American music that kicks off the collection, like Mexico’s LYDIA MEDOZA Y FAMILIA's mid-1930s “Mexico En Una Laguna” (god, I can almost translate that!!) or the Cuban GRUPO DE “LA ALEGRIA” and their 1928 representation. On the other side of the globe are the great Burmese and Hindustani entries, both so baffling for Crumb that the titles are simply “(Title in Hindustani)” and “(Title in Burmese)”. The net effect is a fun, somewhat tiring trip around the early-to-mid 20th Century globe, checking in with the sisterhood in each country to see what they have to sing to us. Let’s call it a real nice CD-R to have in the collection and leave it at that.