This sampler from a projected 12 disc series is a mixed bag of world sounds and voices, from recordings made in the early 20th century through the 1950s. The result, while somewhat disjointed, gives the listener a taste of the wild array of music and vocal recordings that have been made throughout the world. Iraq, Turkey, Greece, Congo, Lebanon and even the Imperial Palace Band of Japan are among those represented. The music ranges from Flamenco to calypso, court music to early jazz.
The public’s fascination with the new medium and its potential is evident in odd, short pieces where single voices are heard as they are recorded laughing, imitating streetcars, or laughing. It seems that right from the beginning, and the world over, the phonograph, like photography, was recognized as a way to immortality that hadn’t been possible before. A recording of a tune or a few words, like a family portrait, was a new way for one to prove they were here.
This is primarily though, a music compilation. In addition to the myriad unknowns, “Sprigs of Time” features several stunning performances by the likes of Mighty Sparrow, Fairuz of Beirut, and, especially, a haunting 1926 cover of “I Ain’t Got Nobody” on banjo by Cliff Edwards, it is more than that.
The British EMI Archives at Hayes, Middlesex sure had been hiding a priceless collection of sounds. There is a planned series of 12 discs similar to this sampler, and I bet even that won’t scratch the surface of what is out there. Everyone in history wants to have their 2 cents worth, and, it seems, many of them chose to say their piece on vinyl. 8/10 -- Mike Wood (12 November, 2008)