Earlier this year Rolling Stone described Jack White as “Rock & Roll’s Willy Wonka” and it’s clear to see why. His label, Third Man Records, is undoubtedly a golden ticket for music fans. Its Nashville HQ boasts a record store and a music venue while also releasing some of the most out-there records you’re likely to come across. From a peach-scented LP to records that glow-in-the-dark, White’s label has enough eccentricity to give even Roald Dahl’s imagination a run for its money.
But Third Man Records isn’t just about novel ideas; they’re also passionate about great music. Perhaps that is most apparent in their most recent project; a first of its kind box set that charts the rise and fall of Paramount Records. Spread over two-volumes, the collection is an omnibus of art, words and music… and both volumes look absolutely stunning.
Volume One was released late last year (take a look here) and covers a period between 1917-1927. I now have a whole host of images showing off the second volume of the collection and it’s a beaut! Consisting of 800 tracks released between 1928-1932, this new collection contains six LPs as well as two books filled with bios, art and articles. Not only that, but it also contains a USB drive filled with music and ads from the era. Everything is housed in a beautiful aluminum and stainless steel cabinet that evokes the high art deco styling of the era.
Even if you’re not the biggest fan of music I’m sure you’d be impressed by how great this package looks. Taking inspiration from the likes of Walter Dorwin Teague, Norman Bel Geddes and especially John Vassos; the cabinet looks beautiful and the illustrations and design of the books is just superb. Its creators stated that their intention for the project was to create something closer to an interactive museum exhibit than a conventional music collection and I think they’ve definitely pulled that off.
To say that Paramount was an important record label feels like a bit of an understatement. Its output included releases from jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, as well as blues musicians like Charley Patton and Son House. Their contribution to American music is hugely impressive; bringing about the birth of the Mississippi Delta blues while also influencing the style of Robert Crumb and countless other 20th century artists and illustrators through their series of hand-drawn ads in the pages of the Chicago Defender.
A collection like this is a lot to take in. I’ve spent a small amount of time listening to it and feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. I love the sound of the era and it’s been a joy to discover some great recordings from that time. Paramount was the first and most comprehensive chronicler of what America sounded like during the 1920s and ’30 so it’s great to see their legacy being preserved in a manner as fitting as this.
The Rise & Fall Of Paramount Records Volume 2, 1928-1932 is released November 18. Volume 1 can be purchased here.