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Various Artists: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

An average person might buy 10 CDs a year. But you’re not an average person. You’re reading a magazine that specializes in jazz music, a niche market that appeals to connoisseurs and collectors more than casual fans. You probably buy 10 CDs a month, not a year. You refer to old Blue Note LPs not by their titles but by their catalog numbers. You won’t rest until you’ve found and downloaded every live recording by your favorite musician. You have a room or basement devoted to your stuff.

If any of the above sounds like you, then you’re just the sort of person The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of is geared toward. Because even if you’re not a big fan of 1920s and ’30s country and blues, you’ll appreciate the spirit in which this two-CD collection was created. The set is packaged in a DVD-size box with cover art by obsessive 78s collector R. Crumb. It features a 20-page booklet with an essay written by producer-collector Richard Nevins that at once pokes fun at and celebrates music obsessives while explaining the backstories behind a fair number of the discs’ 46 tracks. There are also newspaper clippings highlighting other hoarders, such as the man who collects hairs from elephant tails, and a sidebar on the notorious Collyer brothers, who packed a four-story New York City building with, well, junk-so much so that a pile fell on Langley Collyer and killed him, which meant he couldn’t feed invalid Homer, who then starved to death.

The cuts here are culled from test or personal pressings and last-existing-copies, making the collection a Holy Grail One Stop for fans of “American primitive” music by the likes of the Georgia Pot Lickers, Wilmer Watts and Son House (whose “Clarksdale Moan” alone is worth the price of admission). The set’s sound quality is mostly fine considering the sources, though the distorted “Bound Steel Blues” by Bill Shepherd with Hayes Shepherd and Ed Webb and “Boll Weevil” by Jaybird Coleman get awards for bordering on the unlistenable. But these two tracks were included for historical purposes and, as the liner notes state, because they’re “so rare…heh, heh, heh!”

Originally Published