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Big-T & the Bada-Bings


Billy Murray
Anthology: the Denver Nightingale

Long before the advent of CDs and vinyl, music lovers of the early 1900s enjoyed music either in the Vaudeville theatres or via Thomas Edison's hit invention, the Edison Cylinder or the Victorphone. America's pop star of the era was an Irishman from Philadelphia who had a unique and clear voice named Billy Murray. Now, Archeophone Records, one of the better re-issue record labels, has compiled an entertaining collection of Murray's recordings spanning the years 1903 to 1940 with their new release, Anthology: The Denver Nightingale.

In the early days of recording, singers had to practically shout into the engraving cone to have their voice etched onto the record disc. What made Murray so remarkable was that he had a tremendous knack for this task. Such was his talent that the May 1942 issue of Hobbies magazine noted, "Everybody said Billy Murray's records were the only ones so clear you could catch every word on first hearing. This was partly because there was a certain 'ping' to his voice that cut sharp into the wax and he was smart enough to nasalize certain syllables—exactly as printers use italic type—to make important words and phrases stand out."

Anthology: The Denver Nightingale evokes visions of WWI era fashion and life. Listening to this disc, you feel as if you are sitting in the parlor with your family and friends listening to the new hit songs that were all the rage on the Vaudeville stage. The collection focuses primarily on the early years of Murray's career, with songs like "Come Take a Trip 'n My Air-Ship" (1904), "Under the Anheuser Bush" (1905), "Give My Regards To Broadway" and "In My Merry Oldsmobile" (1905). Other favorites and novelties include "K-K-K-Katy (Stammering Song)" (1918), "Casey Jones" (1910), and "Amos 'n Andy" (1930).

Anyone who has an appreciation for the music of the early 20th century is probably familiar with these songs in one form or another and will enjoy hearing them. I can even remember having to sing some of the tunes in elementary school music class, which makes the original recordings that much more intriguing. The only disappointing aspect of this collection is that Billy Murray's #1 hit of all time from 1908, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," is not in this collection. Why? Well, the nice folks at Archeophone have included very detailed liner notes about Murray's career, which state that the classic base ball anthem was never recorded by Murray himself. You'll just have to get some peanuts and Cracker Jack™ and hum a few bars yourselves.

—Smilin' Buddha Joe

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