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The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records Volume 1 [Vinyl Box Set]Artist: Various Artists
More Info:The Rise & Fall narrative takes the form of a curated exhibit of words, images and music with Paramount at its fulcrum, all housed in a lush handcrafted cabinet that harkens back to the wunderkammern, precursors to the modern museum. Crafted as an object to keep and cherish for a lifetime, its form is designed to reveal evidence of the hand at work, to bring out the tactile richness of hand-sculpted woods and metals, and to meld the rough-hewn with the earliest burblings of American modernism in the 1920s.
Paramount Records was formed in 1917 with little fanfare and few prospects its founders ran a Wisconsin furniture company and knew nothing of the record business. Its mission was modest: produce records as cheaply as possible with whatever talent was available. The results were unequivocal: the records sounded bad and sold poorly. Paramount was soon on the threshold of bankruptcy.
In 1922 Paramount s white owners embarked on a radical new business plan: selling the music of black artists to black audiences ( the music of the Race, or Race Records ). This move, paired with equal parts dumb luck, opportunism, chicanery and a willingness to try anything, paid dramatic dividends.
By 1927, Paramount was the most important label in the Race Records field, selling hundreds of thousands of records. And by the time it ceased operations in 1932, it had compiled a dizzying roster of performers still unrivaled to this day by any other assemblage of talent ever housed under one roof spanning early jazz titans (Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton), vaudeville songsters (Papa Charlie Jackson), the first solo guitar bluesmen (Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake), theater blues divas (Ma Rainey, Alberta Hunter, Ethel Waters), gospel (Norfolk Jubilee Quartette), masters of Mississippi blues (Charley Patton, Son House, Skip James) and the indefinable other (Geeshie Wiley, Elvie Thomas).
As a body of work, Paramount inarguably ranks alongside the most potent archives of American art, of any kind, ever assembled. This is the story of how it came to be.
The label s story mirrors that of America itself, riding the waves of modernism emanating from post-WWI-Europe and the sufferings and joys of the Great Migration of black Americans from the South to the Midwest and Northeast. Drawing on talent found in its recording base of Chicago but also farther afield in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana, Paramount was one of the first enterprises of any kind to truly capture the full range of uniquely American forms of cultural expression what America really sounded like in the 1920s and early 30s: its parlor singers, quartets, kazoo benders, balladeers, cowboy crooners, carny barkers, jassers, vaudevillians, blues belters, guitar slingers, songsters, moonshiners and charlatans the gamut of Melville s multitudinous murmurings.
The Rise & Fall narrative takes the form of a curated exhibit of words, images and music with Paramount at its fulcrum, all housed in a lush handcrafted cabinet that harkens back to the wunderkammern, precursors to the modern museum. Crafted as an object to keep and cherish for a lifetime, its form is designed to reveal evidence of the hand at work, to bring out the tactile richness of hand-sculpted woods and metals, and to meld the rough-hewn with the earliest burblings of American modernism in the 1920s.