Various Artists

The Beautiful Old: Turn of the Century Songs

by Steve Horowitz

10 June 2013

 
cover art

Various Artists

The Beautiful Old: Turn of the Century Songs

(Doubloon)
US: 11 Jun 2013
UK: 3 Jun 2013

Did you ever wonder what the lyrics were to the old song, “(The Man on) The Flying Trapeze”? You might be surprised to learn that the person who “flies through the air with the greatest of ease” turns out to be a woman! It’s not quite so simple. It was a man, who eloped with the narrator’s girlfriend and then taught her acrobatics and gave her a masculine name so she could take his place as a performer while he rests. So by the last verse, the man on the flying trapeze was female. The English New Wave rocker Graham Parker sings the story with tongue firmly in cheek on this collection of 19 old-time tunes from 1823-1918.

The songs include some of the biggest hits from the time—“After the Ball” (1892), the first title in history to sell over a million sheet music copies, done here by Dave Davies of the Kinks; the tribute to romance in the air, “Come Josephine in My Flying Machine” (1911), lovingly sung here by Texan Will Sexton and New Yorker Simone Stevens; and the very strange “The Band Played On” (1895) about a man “so loaded his brain near exploded” with folk rockers Richard Thompson and Christine Collister on vocals. The music is played on the instruments from the original time period by talents such as Garth Hudson of the Band on accordion and piano, Richard Greene on violin, and Gabriel Rhodes on a host of devices. This is not nostalgia. No one alive will remember these songs from their youth. It is more a way of listening to the past and hearing what was once so modern as the music from bygone times and appreciating the beauty left behind.

The Beautiful Old: Turn of the Century Songs

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