Dave Marsh’s Legends and Legacy represents a condensed history of Columbia Records at its best. Its relationship to Sean Wilentz’s book, 360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story, is complementary, but not parallel. Sean’s book is the objective story, and mine, the subjective one. This groundbreaking eBook contains 90 second sound samples of all 263 tracks.
Marsh chronicles the history of the label with 263 of the most important recordings over the past 125 years. Steve Barnett conceived “a collection of the best, not necessarily the biggest.” Thus, some big hits are absent while many relative obscurities are present. Yet, we hope, the fundamental artistic achievement of Columbia as a company is represented in every area: classical, rock, jazz, blues, Broadway, country, dance, soul and R&B, gospel, spoken word.
Another restriction, this one more arbitrary, is that no performer has more than three selections. The goal in making those multiple selections is to express the artist’s development or, in the case of, say, Duke Ellington or Bob Dylan, the multiple facets of the artist’s work. There are ten performers who, for one reason or another, we felt needed three selections to accurately represent them. The emphasis is on performer—the main credited artistic presence in the music. There are at least four songs written by Dylan, his own three plus one by the Byrds, and Benny Goodman and Leonard Bernstein are represented five times each because of work in various collaborative projects.
Another choice was to use the range of music that Columbia purchased from other companies, including OKeh and the American Recording Company, up through the acquisition of ARC in 1939.
Because the goal is historical, we didn’t divide the material by genre. Columbia was never a chamber music label or a pop vocalist label, or a country, disco, rap, Broadway, rock, blues, R&B, or swing company. It released all of these kinds of music (and a few more) as they presented themselves to be done. So we offer you Columbia in 1956, as the home of honky tonk (Johnny Horton, Ray Price), pop (Doris Day), jazz (Duke Ellington, Errol Garner), show tunes (My Fair Lady), orchestral (Isaac Stern with the Philadelphia Orchestra), and orchestral theatrical music (Candide), plus Guy Mitchell, whose “Singing the Blues” might be claimed as pop, rock, or country. There is no greater tribute to Columbia imaginable than the excellence within all these musical categories.
One of the marvels of digitization is that you can easily program the collection to take you to all the jazz tracks or all the blues or show tunes, if that’s your preference. For musical omnivores, which is a category inclusive of everybody involved in creating the collection, it’s more fun to think of “Better Git It in Your Soul” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” being recorded just two weeks apart.
However you choose to listen, we hope that Legends and Legacy adds to your appreciation of what treasures reside in Columbia’s archives, and adds to your appreciation of the historical story woven by 360 Sound. If you have a tenth the fun I did in compiling it, you’ll rejoice in these riches and hit repeat when it’s over. –Dave Marsh
What's New in Version 1.0.1
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