That marvelous series from Archeophone Records, The Phonographic Yearbook, has just grown by one more CD, “1918: ‘Like the sunshine after the rain’.”
I can only hope that the Archeophone people will eventually have one CD for each year from 1900 to 1922; and at this point, they lack a few years. What an amazing project!
Each CD is accompanied by a booklet packed with information about the times and about each song on the disc, with plenty of photos to make it all the more vivid. The sound, considering the acoustic nature of the technology back then, is surprisingly good; and the tendency of the singers to enunciate (!) each word sets a standard that has been long since ignored.
1918 saw the last days of the war, the armistice, and the deadly flu epidemic. No one, to my knowledge, wrote songs about the latter, but most of the songs recorded in that year had much to do with the war.
Those with direct references to WWI are “Send me away with a smile,” the overly optimistic “I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way,” and, as examples of old songs used for new purposes, “The battle hymn of the republic” and “Hail! hail! the gang’s all here.”
In a lighter vein, there are “Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning,” “They were all out of step but Jim,” and “I don’t want to get well” (because the wounded soldier has fallen in love with his nurse). “Oh, Frenchy” is about an American nurse attracted to a French casualty.
Recycling the sentimental song about the child trying to phone her mother up in heaven, “Hello, central, give me no man’s land” drew many a tear, as did “Just a baby’s prayer at twilight (for her daddy over there).”
The orchestral “Hindustan” brings to mind the some of the exotic places the soldiers were seeing, and “Roses of Picardy” does the same for some of the beautiful places.
To make a fair representation of all sorts of popular songs, “1918” includes “Darktown strutters’ ball,” “Everything is peaches down in Georgia,” “Tiger rag,” “I’m always chasing rainbows,” and “Smiles.”
Among the singers are John McCormack, Arthur Fields, Billy Murray, Al Jolson, Henry Burr, Van and Schenck, and Enrico Caruso. The latter belts out “Over there” in English and then in French in a most impressive way.
What a wonderful way to liven up a history lesson, you teachers out there!