Time Life: The Big Bands Collection

I’ve always had a soft spot for 1930s big band music, born out of my fond memories of my late father taping FM rebroadcasts during the 1990s of original Your Hit 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 set.

At the time my big band library also included 181 LP-rips and broadcast archives I’d compiled into a playlist affectionately dubbed, Shirt Tail Stomp: Swing & The Big Bands. 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, as well as the four-disc Smithsonian – Big Band Jazz: From the Beginnings to the 50s box set.

Hungry for more great sounds, I performed some additional research this week and was overjoyed to discover a colossal archive of some of the best-mastered big band music ever issued. It began when my search led me to a discussion on the Steve Hoffman audiophile forum where a member inquired about a big band mail order series of LPs issued by Time Life in the 1980s. A few members chimed in that it was one of the best series available for the genre and provided a brief history of the releases. A detailed summary of the complete 29-volume series and tracklists is available here.

Here is the original television advert for the series:

I was absolutely floored to discover than an independent archivist calling himself gary34 had set himself to the task of compiling a digital lossless archival hybrid of the complete analog and digital releases from this Time Life series, complete with uniform tagging, album artwork, and transcription details in an accompanying document. He wrote:

In 1991 Time-Life issued a subscription set of (Mono) CDs, using material which had already been transcribed for their original ‘Big Bands’ LP series almost a decade earlier. One of the first commercial DSP noise removal systems was used in the production of the CDs, to remove the worst of the imperfections inherent on the original mechanical media, (as captured on the master tapes used to make the LPs).

Unfortunately for subscribers, the CD set wasn’t quite as complete as the original LP series. True, tracks were the same as those on the LPs, but the CD booklets had less information about the artist and the music than the excellent liner sheet included with each of the original LP sets. As well, only the big name bands made it to CD. The seven excellent compilations of less well-known material and groups did not.

This library comprises not only the 29 original volumes, but also includes the compact disc given out as a bonus from Time Life under catalog #TCD-134 which was a variation with an alternate track list from the original cat #STBB-28 titled, The Big Bands: World War II.

This hybrid collection brings together 100% of the recordings issued by Time Life in all formats which have been out of print and unavailable commercially for nearly 40 years and is a magnificent specimen for anyone who appreciates big band music and quality sound.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ahoi, mate! Where might I find this treasure trove?

    • Thanks for reading! I searched through my archives but sadly it doesn’t appear that I documented the blogger who offered the set for download. I tried searching for it on Google but didn’t find it so it may have been taken down.

      Out of curiosity, I checked Archive.org and it looks like users have uploaded several volumes of Time Life – The Big Bands, The Swing Era, and the Giants of Jazz series that I touched upon in my article, so you can at least grab those 30 album uploads there for free.

      Happy listening!

  2. Hi, could you please aid me in finding this collection somewhere?

    • Thanks for reading! I searched through my archives but sadly it doesn’t appear that I documented the blogger who offered the set for download. I tried searching for it on Google but didn’t find it so it may have been taken down.

      Out of curiosity, I checked Archive.org and it looks like users have uploaded several volumes of Time Life – The Big Bands, The Swing Era, and the Giants of Jazz series that I touched upon in my article, so you can at least grab those 30 album uploads there for free.

      Happy listening!


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