Rave review for Bob Wills Tiffany Transcriptions box set

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Noel Murray at A.V. Club has reviewed the new Collectors Choice box set of the Tiffany Transcriptions, a selection of recordings made by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in the mid '40s. It's a great review, with good descriptions of the music and the history behind it, enhanced by a selection of songs: "Texas Playboys Opening Theme," "Fat Boy Rag," "St. Louis Blues (Part 2)," "Frankie Jean," "Ida Red."

Murray captures the distinction between the Texas Playboys' commercial releases on Columbia and MGM on 78 RPM, and these transcriptions, pressed on larger discs for distribution to radio stations:

I've always liked the Wills' 78s I've heard; they're bright, catchy and good-spirited. But the music on The Tiffany Transcriptions has an edge to it, born of the circumstances under which the shows were recorded. As the surviving bandmembers recall, the Tiffany sets were scheduled for the end of the tour, when everyone was anxious to finish up their business and get home to their families. After months on the road, they all knew the songs backward and forward, so they banged out each song in one take, and with added urgency....

On their 78s, Wills and company sound energetic but confined: a group of professional music-makers. On The Tiffany Transcriptions, they sound like human beings: scruffy, sweaty, disheveled and irritable. It's a side of everyday existence that mainstream show business largely tried to screen out in the '40s, but listening to The Tiffany Transcriptions is a way of conjuring up the past the way it actually was. It's like digging beneath a stack of Hollywood fan magazines and finding a cache of family photos.

Murray cautions against O.D.ing on ahhh-hahhhhs:

The best way to tackle The Tiffany Transcriptions is to spend time with each disc individually, admiring the eclectic mix of originals with covers, and of instrumentals with songs that take advantage of smooth-dude lead vocalist Tommy Duncan. Even better: narrow your Playboys appreciation down to one song at a time, until you can hear each individual fiddle and horn and guitar, and imagine what it must've been like to be in a dance hall with so many musicians playing in unison on stage. The beauty of Bob Wills' music was in its vastness, both in terms of sound and subject. Well before the bastard American music form known as rock 'n' roll had a name or a following, The Texas Playboys were stealing liberally from pop, jazz, R&B and country music, taking primarily the parts that made people move.

A comment from an A.V. Club reader is worth requoting:

If hipsters start listening to western swing instead of Weezer, the world will be a much better place.

MORE: Here's the number one Google result for "Tiffany Transcriptions". <grin>

STILL MORE: Here's a video from just before the Tiffany period -- Ida Red -- Bob Wills and Joe Holley on fiddle, Noel Boggs on steel, Cameron Hill and Jimmy Wyble on standard guitar, Millard Kelso on accordion, and Tommy Duncan on vocals. The trumpeter sounds like Alex Brashear, but I thought he had a mustache. Didn't recognize the bass player.

ONE MORE: This sweet YouTube video combines "Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)" (from For the Last Time) with photos of house dances from the 1930s (in Pie Town, New Mexico, according to a commenter), when they'd roll up the rug, push back the chairs, and stay all night dancing to music played by the fiddler and the rhythm guitarist in the corner.

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1 Comments

Yogi Author Profile Page said:

Very interesting. Bob Wills and the Playboys is the most amazing thing about Tulsa that very few people know about. I have been here 17 years and I'm dumbfounded by the number of lifelong residents who have never heard of him.

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