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What Are Those Schlocky Pop 78s Doing in My Blues Record Collection?

Posted by Sherwin Dunner, June 22, 2012 06:50pm | Post a Comment

Over the years I've shared my favorite vintage 78s with friends who are not part of the hard core 78 collector crowd. While we might share a taste for the same films, books and restaurants, we're not quite on the same page with music, at least not yet. Since I'm fondest of music from the 1920s and 1930s, and that's a long way from the 21st Century, it's a challenge to break in those who live with contemporary sounds. Not that I'm hoping to make full converts, but if I share some of my favorite 78s, maybe some will cross the accessibility threshold and they'll acquire a taste for more. Inevitably, when it comes to 1920s jazz, most fall flat – it all apparently sounds like cartoon music. With blues singers, the all too familiar refrain is that it's three chords and the same song over and over. Even though I always play those I consider "can't miss winners," in principle I can't totally disagree with them as I've spent many hours squirming my way through what I consider “formulated” blues 78s by lesser, second tier blues singers.

The great country bluesmen seldom recorded a formulated dud, but in acquainting myself with their body of work, I discovered that those few 78s where country blues singers chose to work their magic on popular tin-pan-alley hits were some of my favorite 78s. It was refreshing to hear the different tempos, more varied melodies, and new notes coming out of the instruments of these masters once outside the confines of the blues idiom. The best selling sheet music for these songs could be found sitting on pianos in middle class homes. Orchestras in every podunk town were playing stock arrangements of them at dance halls. And in a few rare cases, they made it onto “race” records by blues singers. Some of my purist blues collector friends pointed out with a sneer, those were POP records, eyeballing me like there was a cancer hanging over my blues collecting impulse, yet I prized these performances over many of the straight blues sides, and whenever possible I would swing a trade for some of these pop records by blues singers. So I'm of a different ilk, not strictly a blues collector, but a music collector who likes great blues singers, especially when they are not singing the blues.
 

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Welcome to the New 78 Blog

Posted by Sherwin Dunner, October 17, 2011 06:05pm | Post a Comment
We'll be keeping you up to date here with news related to our expanding activity with those breakable pre-vinyl artifacts sometimes referred to as “shellac” records.

Asian Lac BugAs a point of interest, shellac is not just an arbitrary tag pinned on 78s. Just like shellac's well-known use as a furniture finish, the secretion of the Asian Lac bug was also the primary ingredient for 78s from the beginning of the industry in the early 1900s up 'til around 1950, when vinyl began to replace it. It takes approximately 100,000 Lac bugs to produce one pound of shellac, so this species is owed a special debt of gratitude among fans of the 78 rpm record. 

Upcoming entries might offer tales of amazing 78 finds or "fish that got away" stories dredged from ancient 78 lore. We'll highlight overlooked 78s or artists you should hear. We'll invite contributions from guest collectors. As the next advance in digital technology hypes storing music collections in the cloud, we'll delve into the lingering appeal these arcane fetish objects still have for some of us.

We recently added a batch of 78s to the Buy Stuff section of Amoeba.com, which now allows 78 surfers to select “78” from the drop down menu to view all the 78s together by date added. Items can also be selected by specific category of interest. We will continue to add 78s to the site and encourage you to check back regularly. As with other items purchased on Amoeba.com, shipping is free on 78s (USA only), saving 78 buyers at least $4.00 or $5.00 on shipping charges they would normally have to foot on an eBay or private mail order purchase. We grade 78s conservatively. Find out more about our 78 grading codes

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One Last Thing About August ...

Posted by Whitmore, August 29, 2009 02:14pm | Post a Comment

Now that August is basically over, here is my last chance to mention that it’s been National Catfish Month across this great, chowing-down, eater’s paradise of ours. Back in the late 1980s, the month of August was officially designated by mysterious entities as National Catfish Month. Today, seafood consumption in the United States exceeds 4.9 billion pounds annually and more catfish is now produced on a yearly basis in the United States than all other farmed fish combined. Personally, I’ll eat Catfish any way you serve it: blackened, broiled, grilled, poached or pan fried. At one time catfish was regarded as only a Southern staple. Times have changed. Diners nationwide have doubled their waistlines and their per capita consumption of Catfish since 1986, becoming the fourth most popular fish served in the United States.
 
Another thing, ninety-four percent of all Farm-Raised Catfish harvested in this country is from family-owned farms; many of these growers are second or third generation farmers. Today, the farm-raised Catfish industry employs more than 13,000 people and contributes more than $4 billion to the economy of states like Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana.
 
Catfish is also a lean fish and is an excellent source of protein, low in saturated fat and is a moderate source of polyunsaturated (the good) fat and omega-3 fatty acids. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, moderate fish consumption -- one to two meals a week -- may cut the risk of sudden cardiac death in half.
 
Anyway, why am I writing about catfish? Sometimes between art and movies and music you have to eat, and it might as well be something that isn’t absolute crap. Here is a great recipe from The Catfish Institute. So, throw on some good music (personally I’d go more old-school, maybe some Clifton Chenier), open up the right bottle of beer, maybe an Abita Amber, and enjoy some Catfish with a spicy fireworks rub. Bon Appetit!
 
Catfish with Spicy Fireworks Rub
Serves 4, this recipe makes enough spice rub to keep in your pantry and use many more times throughout the grilling season. (Sidenote: You can store the fireworks rub in a dark cupboard, away from heat; it will keep for two to three months.)
 
¼ cup (50 mL) chili powder
¼ cup (50 mL) ground cumin
¼ cup (50 mL) ground coriander
2 tbsp (30 mL) packed brown sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) salt
1 tbsp (15 mL) red pepper flakes
2 tbsp (30 mL) freshly ground black pepper
4 U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish fillets, 6 to 8 oz (180 to 250 g) each
 
Preheat grill or broiler to high.
 
To make fireworks rub, mix spices in a bowl and spoon into a glass jar with tight-fitting lid.
 
Spray both sides of each catfish fillet lightly with vegetable oil.
 
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of fireworks rub (or adjust to your taste) on each lightly oiled catfish fillet. Grill or broil over high heat for 3 ½ to 4 minutes per side or until the fish begins to flake when tested with a fork in the thickest part.
 
By the way, here’s some Skip James, “Catfish Blues,” and the great Clifton Chenier.