The cheapie box set is an interesting phenomenon:
- Gather some recordings from major artists where the copyright has lapsed (or never existed),
- Put the recordings in any arbitrary order you choose,
- Use more discs than are necessary to convince the buyer they are getting a great bargain,
- Give it a catchy title.
I have a Scott Joplin compilation with no credits – funnily enough, from a Quebec label, just like this set – but you can clearly hear differences in piano and recording quality. I have a Muddy Waters box set which is all demos, but nowhere on the outside does it indicate it contains demos only or even just hints that the recordings are demos. They were great, cheap ways of introducing myself to somebody – provided one doesn’t want the artist’s best – back before online music really took off, but now they seem a little silly (potential copyright issues aside).
Knowing little (at least not enough) about Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, I can’t tell you little about the quality of these performances within their careers. But I can tell you a few things.
- A three disc set such as this should have at least 160 minutes of music on it. This has around 110 minutes (give or take).
- Box sets should have some kind of rhyme or reason to them. This does not:
- There are well-produced (or at least well-maintained) recordings mixed in with either demos or bad recordings.
- The performances, on the other hand, sound like they were good, on the whole (so I usually suspect age or bad recording equipment rather than demo purposes behind the shitty sound).
- There are really traditional jazz recordings next to fairly modern jazz recordings, with no obvious pattern.
- A collection such as this should give you some idea of the “essence” (for lack of a better term) of the genre it pretends to be sampling. I’d like to think this does, but given that I dislike vocal jazz on the whole – A quick aside: one reason I dislike vocal jazz is so many jazz lyrics are terrible – I can’t swear to it. It does make me interested in searching out these singers, if only to understand the history – and perhaps that is such a collection’s point… kidding, the point of this collection is to make money for people who had nothing to do with the recordings.
- The biggest issue is that, though we have songwriting credits and lead vocal credits, there are no other credits: year, label, band, producer, engineer are all missing.
To conclude, this is clearly a cash grab but it’s not terrible (certainly it’s much better than it could be). I hope she didn’t pay much for it.
Note: This was re-released by the “label” “Boxed Sets” in 2001.