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Various Artists

Sprigs of Time

78s From the EMI Archive

(Honest Jon's; US: 14 Oct 2008; UK: 20 Oct 2008)

Listening to Sprigs of Time is like finding a dusty, mildewed collection of old phonograph records at in the dingy basement floor of the library. It’s haunting, fascinating, and somehow intimate.

These old 78s, collected by Honest Jon’s, are anywhere from 50 to 100 years old. Consisting mostly of field recordings, they almost literally span the globe. Sound effects and a recited English alphabet cozy up to gamelan music from Bali. Scat singing, ukulele-strumming New Yorker Cliff Edwards rubs shoulders with an Indian raga from 1905. Most all of these 30 tracks are gems in their own ways.

Englishman Sam Mayo’s Depression-era “Things Are Worse In Russia” remains funny while serving as proof that some things never do change. Among the most listenable selections here are the traditional Cuban, Spanish, and Portuguese pieces, including one by Rubén González. Almost as amazing as the recordings themselves is the extent to which they’ve been cleaned up by the Honest Jon’s team. You won’t want to listen to Sprigs of Time every day, but if you have any interest in music, history, or music history, this is one trip worth taking.

Bonus: It’s unbeatable in the Esoteric Mix Tape sweepstakes.


John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of "first good female rocker" was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee's Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.

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