This roughly-chronological list of CDs (or LPs or LP-sized downloads / streams / etc.) is never going to be exhaustive, instead I hope to use it to highlight some releases which I’ve used at least a couple of times, and which I’d recommend for further exploration of music used in the mixes. (A note for myself – this is updated up to 1907)
The Dawn of Recording: The Julius Block Cylinders (Marston, 2008) – A compilation of some of the earliest classical music recordings, all made by Russian businessman and music lover Julius Block on a machine sent over by Edison. Includes very famous names like Tchaikovsky, Sergey Taneyev, Anton Arensky, Josef Hofmann, and the voice of Leo Tolstoy.
Archeophone Records – A specialist label which releases CDs of restored music from the acoustic era. Hard to pick out a single release, but the “phonographic yearbooks” they put out are probably the closest thing in existence to Centuries of Sound.
Dust to Digital – the other label putting out multiple compilations of the acoustic era. More world music and starting a little later.
Honest Jon’s – A London Record shop who sometimes release compilations of early recordings.
Actionable Offenses: Indecent Phonograph Recordings from the 1890s (Archeophone, 2007) – “Russell Hunting went to jail for what’s on this CD. 19 cylinder selections (43 tracks) from c.1892-1900 of the rarest of the rare: explicit indecent spoken-word recordings that brought down the wrath of anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock.”
Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922 (Archeophone, 2007) – “Fifty-four tracks by 43 artists, and 60 pages of in-depth commentary and analysis: Lost Sounds is a monumental achievement that stretches back to the faint beginnings of commercial recordings and travels to the brink of the Jazz Age to trace the contributions of black artists on American records.”
Real Ragtime: Disc Recordings From Its Heyday (Archeophone, 1999) – “29 songs from 1898-1923, 28-page booklet with historical notes, artist bios, and rare graphics. Includes two extremely rare Berliner discs. Banjos by Ossman and Van Eps, raggy marches by Pryor and Sousa, vocals by Collins, American Quartet, and ‘Gene Greene, and much more. These are the ragtime records people heard during the genre’s formative years.”
Bert Williams: The Early Years, 1901-1909 (Archeophone, 2004) – “The first volume of The Complete Bert Williams, featuring the legendary comedian’s rarest records. 31 tracks from 1901-1909, including several with George Walker: 15 tracks from their 1901 sessions and a further 16 tracks from sessions in 1906 and following.”
Stomp and Swerve: American Music Gets Hot (Archeophone, 2013) – “27 songs from 1897-1925, 28-page booklet with historical notes, artist bios, and unusual graphics chronicling the rise of “hot” playing in American music over four decades.”
Longing for the Past: The 78 rpm Era in Southeast Asia (Dust to Digital, 2013) – “The first survey of the 78 rpm record era in Southeast Asia. It is a kaleidoscopic collection featuring 4 CDs with 90 tracks of music spanning six decades (1905-1966), accompanied by a 272-page book with essays and annotations by leading ethnomusicologists that is richly illustrated with more than 250 vintage photographs, record labels, and sleeves.”
Early Tzigane Records: 1898-1922 (Frémeaux, 2003) – “Tziganes! Le violon tzigane, si tentateur, si séducteur, ne serait-il pas le violon du diable ? 36 titres revenus de la Belle Epoque et de ses nuits grisées, des restaurants les plus chics, les plus mondains, les plus envoûtants pour comprendre la magie qui troubla les princesses et fit tant rêver Jean Cocteau…”
Sprigs of Time: 78s From the Emi Archive (Honest Jon’s, 2008) – “Thirty amazing tracks recorded between 1903 and 1957, everywhere from England — Percy Grainger’s recording of the title song in 1908 — to the court of the Japanese emperor five years earlier, the stunning Segaiha.”
Outsinging The Nightingale: Lost Treasures Of Bulgarian Music (JSP Records, 2010) – “In the 1960’s, Lauren Brody, an American exchange student, became fascinated with the traditional music of Bulgaria. Single mindedly and almost single-handedly, she assembled what is now recognised as one of Balkan folk music’s most important archives. That collection forms the basis of this important 4CD release-compiled and annotated by MsBrody herself, it must be the most authoritative ever issued.”
Indian Talking Machine: 78 RPM Record and Gramophone Collecting on the Sub-Continent (Sublime Frequencies, 2016) – “Robert Millis’s Indian Talking Machine is a 244 page full colour hardcover book with two CDs containing 46 tracks from shellac discs spanning 1903 to 1949, which Millis collected in India and compiled for their first ever CD release; the book contains over 300 photographs of 78rpm record collections, collectors, and ephemera, as well as detailed track notes and an essay.”
Hot Music From Cuba 1907-1936 (Harlequin, 1993) – “Brilliant compilation of thirty years of early recordings of Cuban music. Includes a 12 page transcription booklet of all 25 songs in Spanish and English. Review. All the styles you never got to hear (plus excellent septeto and cuarteto) are included.”
Vintage Music From India (Rounder, 1995) – “Not exclusively a Hindustani compilation since seven of its 24 tracks are Carnatic but a remarkable collection of Hindustani music nevertheless.”
Victrola Favorites: Artifacts from Bygone Days (Dust to Digital, 2008) – “Recordings made between 1920s-50s featuring Burmese guitars, Chinese Opera, Persian folk songs, Fado, Hillbilly, Jazz, Blues and much, much more.”