Wednesday, May 10, 2006

World of Literature on 78rpm

Well, it's been a while since I have put something up here, so to honour your patience, here's a set of 78rpm discs that I think are quite unusual. I found these at a thrift store in Idaho several years ago, and have just now gotten to them to do encodes of them... and they're some pretty interesting stuff, as far as spoken-word discs go.

American Books Company amd Decca Records got together in the early 50s to produce some sets of literary works under the Audio Education label. I found two of these sets, both entitled World of Literature (but containing different material), in absolutely pristine-looking condition, so I snagged them. As soon as I can get my doggoned cheapy digital camera to quit eating batteries, I'll get a pic of the front cover and one of the disc labels (or I suppose I could just scan the damn things....) for you. There were a few entries in this series (as catalogued in the liner notes), but so far, I have only seen these two sets that I have here.

The shellac quality is fantastic, even with a few scratches in the grooves that CoolEdit had issues with... you can get an idea which disc got the most play.

We'll start with the pure spoken word poetry, read by Alexander Scourby. His renditions of Alfred Noyes' The Highwayman, the old ballad Edward, Edward, John Masefield's familiar Sea Fever,, and Rudyard Kipling's If, all are very inspired solo readings, much like the recitations given during Presentation Day in schools in the early part of the 20th century. Some schools and homeschool groups still do this, and these poems would be great material for such a recitation.

The remaining two pieces are different than the solo recitations. Agnes Moorehead (Endora, the nagging mother-in-law on the old TV series "Bewitched", along with several other notable film credits) reads the John Greenleaf Whittier vignette of Stonewall Jackson's encounter with a Union patriot Barbara Frietchie with an orchestral background. A moving piece, especially if you are a follower of the North. Nonetheless, it is a picture of patriotism that should be carried in the hearts of all American patriots in these troubled times. It is also the literary proof that one person can, indeed, make a difference and take a stand, especially if their heart and soul commands them to do so.

The final recording in this set gives us the recording stars from the Northeast, the Ames Brothers. Their vocalisation and harmony are lent to the old spiritual Go Down Moses. This was from an earlier Coral label release, as opposed to tracks that were done specifically for the World of Literature set. The brothers and a Hammon organ, can't beat that with a stick!

As you can probably guess, the last two sides were played the most, but they still transferred very well, and I hope that you enjoy them. I'll work on the other set I have and post that one in the future.



  • Hey Brad,
    I'm slightly recovering from the exhausting quest for the Milkshake Orchestra...
    There have been some changes made on the Jazz Corner -- just read my comments under Lee's '666' post and drop by!
    Good night,
    Lady D.

    By Anonymous lady domi, at 11:07 PM  

  • I saw all the changes, and they are very very very cool! Looks very nice and stylized and very interesting, I like it!

    By Blogger The Impaler, at 7:30 PM  

  • 7/9/2009

    I've just discovered your blog AudiOddities and am intrigued by the "World of Literature" recordings that were released on 78rpm discs. I would be particularly interested to hear the Agnes Moorehead recording of Barbara Frietchie. However, it appears that all of the links to MP3 files are down -- they all return a DNS error.

    It looks as though your last entry in this blog was over two years ago, but if you're still around, would it be possible to make these MP3s available for download again? Even just the one file would be very much appreciated.

    Thank you.

    By Anonymous Professional Tourist, at 5:58 PM  

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