Published Sep 24, 2013In addition to signing a steady stream of new artists, Jack White's Third Man Records has been giving fans a history lesson by reissuing decades-old recordings that make up the foundation of American music. Having uncovered Sun Records 7-inches and the complete works of a few blues masters, the label has announced what just might be its most ambitious archival release yet: a two-volume box set called The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1932, which comes packaged in a so-called "wonder-cabinet."
As the title indicates, the set documents the history of Paramount Records, which was home to artists spanning jazz, blues, gospel and more. Notable acts associated with the label include Louis Armstrong, Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House and Skip James. The company was also known for its iconic hand-drawn advertisements.
Volume One — covering the years 1917 to 1927 — will be released exclusively through Third Man on October 29, with the worldwide release to follow (in partnership with Revenant Records) on November 19. The set was produced by Paramount expert Alex van der Tuuk.
Volume One is housed in a lavish package, which the label calls an "omnibus of art, words and music housed in a limited-edition, hand-sculpted cabinet-of-wonder." It includes six 180-gram LPs on chestnut-coloured vinyl, a 250-page hardback art book, a 360-page softcover book containing artist portraits and Paramount's discography, and more that 200 ads and images from the 1920s. There's also a digital component in the form of 800 remastered tracks from 172 artists, plus a music and image app on a USB drive.
This is all housed in an oak cabinet with velvet upholstery and metal hardware. That's what it looks like above, and more images can be viewed at Third Man's website.
Third Man's announcement explains, "Paramount Records was founded on a modest proposition: produce records as cheaply as possible, recording whatever talent was available. Over its lifetime, the label would become a 'race records' powerhouse, its sound and fortunes directly linked to the Great Migration."
Volume Two will follow in November 2014.