Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Waxing the Gospel: Mass Evangelism and the Phonograph, 1890-1900 - "the most in-depth look at the dawn of the recording industry ever issued."


They were Grammy-nominated in 2005 for 'Lost Sounds'; this year Archeophone Records have done another superb and ground-breaking job on this book and CD collection. Over 4 hours of music and a 408 page book, with Ira D Sankey singing 'My Ain Countrie'. Can I wait till Christmas?...

Before the 20th century, the “sacred” songs of Protestant camp meetings and revivals were as catchy, memorable and personal as the pop songs of that or any other time. Bringing you more recordings from the 1890s than any other historical album to date, Waxing the Gospel is a landmark collection of 102 tracks on three CDs in a 408-page beautifully illustrated hardback book. Commercial recordings go back to 1890 and feature pioneer artists Emile Berliner, Thomas Bott, J. W. Myers, Len Spencer, Steve Porter, and J. J. Fisher—as well as stunning instrumental performances by Baldwin’s Cadet Band, Holding’s Parlor Orchestra, and the U. S. Marine Band. Celebrity recordings by star evangelists include Ira D. Sankey, Dwight L. Moody, and Prof. John R. Sweney. And vernacular recordings taken in the field are by historic evangelical figures such as Winfield Weeden singing his original songs, and the “Golden Minstrel” of the Salvation Army, Edward Taylor, who accompanies himself on the guitar. It’s a great listen, a fascinating story, a book for the coffee table, and a resource you’ll want to have nearby.

As their own blog says:

Moody and Sankey “started the fire” . . . they were the Beatles of the 1870s, preaching and singing their saving word to millions in Great Britain and America. They and their compeers gave birth to a type of hymn called “gospel songs,” which were as popular in the late Victorian era among the masses as anything put out today by Rihanna or Beyonce. People embraced the gospel songs as personal anthems, stories of self-realization and awakening. They were so much part of the fabric of American culture that when the early industry started dabbling with a sacred repertoire, these were the pieces the record companies turned to. But as our extensive essay lays out, it didn’t happen immediately. At first the thought was, “Everybody has the hymnals and can sing the gospel hymns themselves, so why would they want records of them?” The story here is of how quickly our ancestors made the infant phonograph a tool of reiteration and remembering.