Gettin’ Sentimental Over You: Diving into Classics of The Big Band Era

Lately, I’ve found myself with a considerable amount of quiet and reflective time which has been profoundly enjoyable. It’s afforded me the opportunity to explore thousands of albums in my library that I’d not previously had the time to experience. Recently I recalled a Tupperware storage box of cassettes that I have from my late father containing archives of big band radio broadcasts which he’d taped off the FM dial in the early 1990s, and I remembered his fondness for swing and standards.

Feeling inspired, (and admittedly a bit sentimental and nostalgic), I researched vinyl collections of big band and jazz classics and discovered a 10-volume box set issued by Reader’s Digest produced by RCA Victor in 1964 which did a magnificent job of showcasing the most beloved standards called, The Great Band Era (1936-1945). All of my favorites are here, from “The Music Goes Round and Round” to “Serenade in Blue.”

DSC00178

I was also delighted to see that the set includes the beloved Glenn Miller classic, “Chattanooga Choo Choo” which had been a favorite of mine ever since I saw the live rehearsal segment of the track from the 1941 film, Sun Valley Serenade.

Annie Van Auken of Amazon remarked of the collection’s sonic merit:

Every one of its 120 tracks are original recordings, dubbed from restored 78 rpm master plates or archived discs. RCA’s simulated stereo effect has been sparingly used and filtration is minimal. The result: sparkling tracks that sound better over speakers than the shellac records.

She also made note of the exquisite quality of the packaging:

Each album has a stock paper sleeve, all of different colors and finely illustrated. The ten LPs are stored in an incredibly strong box with a drop-down door to make access a snap. This box slides into an outer case of similar thickness. It’s an set seemingly built to last centuries!

DSC00179

Also included is a 24-page 12″×12″ booklet containing notes for each song, synopses of events for individual years, an essay on the Big Band era and a layman’s description of how transfers from record to tape was accomplished. There’s also bios for 36 band leaders and two contents list breakdowns: by bands, by songs.

From the musical selections (offered chronologically) to the quality of the mastery and packaging, The Great Band Era seemed like the perfect keepsake for any fan of 1930s standards.

Only one other set appeared to compare to the Reader’s Digest release. Time-Life Recordings issued a 29-volume half-speed mastered big band series on vinyl between 1983 and 1986, and later on compact disc between 1992-94. These were mail order subscription releases and as such are quite costly if one wishes to assemble the complete catalog. Each volume included an illustrated portrait of the band leader and accompanying liner notes. But as each individual set of the 29 Time-Life volumes command a price of ~$20, and as the Reader’s Digest set is readily available any day of the week for only $5, ordering the 10-volume collection was clearly the more sensible choice.

I also remembered that I have a sizable collection of yet-unplayed big band classics in my digital library. I’d previously assembled a 72-hour playlist titled, Shirt Tail Stomp: Swing & The Big Bands comprising 181 LPs and broadcast archives. This collection includes a chronology of Benny Goodman’s complete discographic catalog spanning 1928-1949, a library of 89 radio performance broadcasts, the six-volume big bands series from Archive.org, both the Glenn Miller and Glenn Miller Gold Collection releases, and the four-disc Smithsonian – Big Band Jazz: From the Beginnings to the 50s box set. This library will prove useful for mobile listening, but for my quiet evenings, dropping the needle on the Reader’s Digest box set will fill my home with the warm sounds of the golden age of swing for an experience that no digital playlist can match.

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://innerspacelabs.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/gettin-sentimental-over-you-diving-into-classics-of-the-big-band-era/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. […] Parade transmissions from 1935 to 1953. I touched upon this in July of 2018 in a feature titled, Gettin’ Sentimental Over You when I acquired my first big band vinyl box […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: