How it Was to be Young Again

Was this how it was to be young again, circa: 1940 or 1941? Time Life Records certainly thought so back in 1970 when this 3x LP comp was released. 30, unoriginal (read: covers… or impostors) tracks span the popular swing sound during this two-year period, highlighting works from Duke Ellington, Harry James, Artie Shaw, Les Brown, Glenn Miller, and the like. If you’re in the mood (see what I did there?) for original swing era recordings, The Swing Era: The Music of 1940-1941; How It Was to be Young Then is NOT for you, but if you’re satisfied with some unobtrusive background instrumental ditties, then this box set may be your bag.

The Ballads and the Beat!

BalladsHarry James was a music making machine throughout his illustrious career. Having put out five studio albums between 1965 and 1966 alone, this trumpet-pumping, band-leading barbarian gathered a ton of much deserved respect throughout the swing scene, and his timeless music has pushed him to the front of this historical genre. Dot Records was Mr. James’ fourth label, having released several other noteworthy albums for Columbia, Capitol, and MGM, and as you can clearly see, knew how to design an album cover circa: 1966. Enjoy a bit o’ the swing, now n’ again.

Between Vitaphone and Video

Swing_EraTime Life Records kept its swingin’ stride with 1970’s The Swing Era: The Music of 1936-1936, a three LP compilation of Jazz / Swing ensembles from the mid-1930’s. The label’s second of 14+ in The Swing Era series, this gem comes complete with a 72-page, fully historical and entertaining, photo-filled booklet. The Swing Era: The Music of 1936-1937 features a bunch of Benny Goodman, some Red Norvo, a bit of Bob Crosby, a dash of Chick Webb, and a healthy dose of Tommy Dorsey.

I doubt I’ll ever read all 936 pages (72x 13 box sets… I’m missing a few), but the music is choice far beyond passable comprehension.Swing_Loot

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

PeepsAs a wide-eyed and furrow-browed youngster, I was a huge fan of Swing Music. While attending the local tech college, certain courses were required that involved physical movement (you see, it was Wisconsin, and in the winter we’d have to constantly move around to keep from freezing to death), i.e. racquetball, swimming, and the newly added Swing dance class.

It was 1997, and every 18 year old worth his weight in overzealous ambitions was an enormous fan of the 1996 classic, Swingers… and I was certainly no different. I owned the soundtrack, the DVD, and of course, several quote spilled posters that littered the walls of my shared 3 bedroom apartment on Madison’s west side. I wanted to be a Swinger (in the film’s sense, not the 1970’s shag carpet sense), and my semester learning the lively and energetic basics of Swing was arguably one of my best months of post high school education, regardless if I’ve forgotten all the moves.

Swing FrontFast-forward a good 6 or 7 years to a little record shop in Ventura, CA (no need to move around there, the temperature seldom drops below 55). I became friends with the owner and I was given a quality deal on 13, 3 LP box sets celebrating the Swing era. The series is titled, quiet appropriately, The Swing Era, with each set focusing on 3 to 5 year chunks. Currently on the platter is 1930-1936 and features a lot of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Casa Loma. This, as well as every other set includes a 64-page hard cover book focusing on the intricacies throughout the era during that set’s well, set of years.

I may never again do the Lindy Hop, but with 78 sides of quality Swing spanning the genre’s entire history (13 sets of 3 LPs each x 2 sides), I’ll certainly have the material handy if the jittery bug should ever bite again.