Thursday, December 8, 2016

Analyzing some fun records

While digging for recordings for the last post, I found some fantastic transfers on the way, which is usually what happens when doing that. Just before I finished the last post, I came across a fantastic and wild recording by these two:
Yes indeed. 
Their records are highly valued by record collectors, since in some ways, their harmony was better than Collins with Harlan, and they made fewer records. Of course, there isn't the same charm that Collins and Harlan had, but with Hylands behind either duo, the studio was always a hot time! 
The first record that really caught my attention was a curious 1902 Lambert of "McManus and the Parrot", and it was pretty wild to start! 
My god! Natus is a riot as a parrot! 
Wow, that was unexpected... 
Natus wasn't too often a hilarious and wild character, but sometimes it comes out, like it does when he's the parrot at the beginning of the cylinder. It must be noted that Natus was a minstrel performer in the early 1890's(in the same troupe as Byron Harlan strangely enough!), so it's not too strange to hear him do that, it's just a little out-of-place because he didn't do that on his recordings for some reason. The piano accompaniment is interesting on this Lambert as well, since it's pretty quiet for a Lambert, and it's a little strange, especially since it's one of those Lambert's where the piano was very out-of-tune. For whatever reason, some earlier Lambert's had some piano tuning issues, and sometimes the piano sounded unbearably awful. This one just happens to be one of those records. You can especially hear how awful the piano sounds at the solo at the very end. A great Lambert record overall!
Also, if you get a chance to hear the Collins and Harlan version of this on Columbia from later 1902, you really should listen! It's one of those especially fun Collins and Harlan records with Hylands as an added bonus!
This next one is also by the same duo, but it's an early one for them, in fact, it's got a very strange announcement by Collins, he's got their names reversed! Here's the record:
"Coon Coon Coon" by Collins and Natus from mid-1901.
It's not too often that fantastic Brown waxes like this one come across, but this one is exceptional for 1901. It's played a little too fast, but other than that, you can hear all the bass notes very clearly! It's not exceptional in the content, as i've heard better takes of this by Collins and Natus, but the quality of the recording it very much so, it would be better if it wasn't transferred so fast. 

To stay on Collins and Natus, another recording that is very interesting from this same batch this morning, there was a 1902 Victor of "I got Mine" by them. It's a very interesting recording in terms of piano accompaniment. As for the pianist, I'm pretty sure it's Banta, since it's got most of his characteristics, and I've heard a 1901 Brown wax of this by them, also with Banta, and it has a lot of the same characteristics. It's an exceptional example of early Rag-Time on a recording, and it's not with Fred Hylands. The quality of the piano balancing is better than other Victor's out there, but the accompaniment is not the most perfect, but of course, that don't matter here. Every version of this song is very interesting, even Collins and Harlan's early 1905 version(Hylands is on piano by the way, even if it was recorded in 1905!). Since it's pestering me, that one C octave at 19 seconds in on the Collins and Natus version above is really getting on my nerves! It reveals the out-of-tune piano, almost as bad as that Lambert farther up in the post...

Now to transition to George W. Johnson. Other than all the baggage that came along with Columbia employing Johnson, his recordings are still widely enjoyed, and used quite often by people who aren't experienced record scholars. That's a good thing! Of course, most people aren't going to sit there and wonder who that pianists all the time, but I can't just listen without wondering and sorting through my logic as to who the pianist might be. It has been established before on this blog that the original transfer Johnson's 1891 recording of "The Whistling Coon" was played too fast, and unfortunately, that was the transfer that went onto the CD Lost Sounds put out by Archeophone. Now that we've slowed it down, it seems that we can now use this recording as reference for slowing down other recordings of his, and it's just how Charlie Judkins and I are doing this now. 
We start with the newer transfer:
Still an amazing recording. 
Now that we listened to that one, and took in the tone and range of Johnson's it can be used to slow down a record such as Johnson's famous "Laughing Song", so make it sound like this:
It was shocking to hear it at such a perfect and pure speed. It's at exactly the right speed according to the 1891 "Whistling Coon" record, and it brings out the idiosyncrasies of Hylands' playing, as well as his mistakes. This take has a whole lot more mistakes that you might think. Again, the more records we adjust to the right speed, the more we keep debunking old stereotypes and preconceptions of these old recordings. Just to put this into perspective, here's the original transfer:
It just sounds so much better, after hearing the newly slowed down transfer. 
For an interesting comparison, here's Denny's 1898 Columbia of "Time is money", and really what to listen for here, is the solo at the end. Not only is Hylands playing very good Rag-Time, but he's playing a certain inversion of the C7 chord in the left hand that he also plays exactly the same way on Johnson's "Laughing Song". You can hear the chord I mean in all of the interludes between chorus and verse on the recording. Also, that solo that Hylands plays at the end of the Johnson record no only falls apart almost completely, but he's playing the chorus to "Mister Johnson, Turn Me Loose"(Whoa, that's a very odd coincidence...). Hmm, think we've spotted another signature thing of Hylands'. That is something that he played behind Billy Golden on his 1899 Columbia of "Turkey in the Straw", it's the same end solo! How typical of Hylands, playing one of the most popular "rag" songs of the 1890's! It seems Hylands loved playing those 1896 rags! Hmm, maybe because he was performing them IN 1896(with a hint of sarcasm)...

The two songs that Hylands used as a default end tag are these:
"All Coons Look Alike to Me"
"Mister Johnson Turn me Loose"

Those are the two songs that were used in the Rag-Time competitions of the mid and late 1890's, which says that Hylands probably participated in them when they came around. They are the ones that Mike Bernard earned all of those awards from, and where he got the name "The Rag-Time King" from, it now can be assumed that Hylands joined in the contest, and played "All Coons Look Alike to Me" in that fantastic way of his, but of course was thrown out of the competition by Bernard's charm.That didn't matter of course when Hylands became the main pianist at Columbia in 1898. It is very interesting that Hylands used both of those songs as a default end tag, because I've heard many recordings that have this. It also is another way to help secure Hylands as the pianist on the recording, though there are other ways, it is a good place to start if it happens to be there. It's very interesting that Hylands just happened to choose that song of Harney's, it must raise some suspicion. We can well assume that Hylands was one of those many Harney "fanboys", that were also outstanding accompanists in the time. In this category would include Burt Green, Sidney Perrin, and many other popular early "rag" composers. Of course someone like Max Hoffmann and Dave Reed jr. are in their own category, because they didn't use Harney's melodies in their own songs. Hylands seems to have fit in the "fanboy" category now, especially after spotting another one of these recordings with that Harney end tag. 

Hope you enjoyed this! 

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