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July/August 1999

Blues and Gospel Records 1890-1943

Discography is an exacting and thankless task, but gives one much to ponder. This, the fourth edition, has come a long way from 1964 and is published by an academic press rather than a jazz specialist. And there is much to savor. One notable thing is that due to research done by Ranier Lotz et al., the commencement date has been backed off over two decades as recordings by black American musicians made in Europe have been added to the book. Included before the main part of the book are a series of brief essays on the record companies of the day and their “field” sessions, plus transcription service records and those done for the Library of Congress (and other archives). There are several indices (song titles, broadcasts and films, vocalists, accompanists) at the end of the main text that make it a very useful book.

And the text itself! This is the best laid-out discography I’ve seen published thus far. It is very easy to read and use, with meaningful typefaces used in a logical fashion. To wax ecstatic about what is just a bunch of lists may seem odd, but this is one hell of a good book for those with interest in the details of pre-WW II African American music, both sacred and secular. If you are such a person, then buy this book . . . it will keep you occupied for a lifetime!

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