MEMORABILIA. COLLECTING SOUNDS WITH... Eric Isaacson Part II
Music selected by Eric Isaacson
Since I was a child I have always been attracted to the sounds of home recorded music over the well produced stuff I was inundated with from radio, TV and the backgrounds of grocery stores and restaurants. When I first heard the home demos of the radio music I cherished by the likes of the Beatles or Buddy Holly or Neil Young, I was taken aback by their directness and intensity. This started a lifelong obsession with collecting music that was not produced in a studio setting.
Thanks to my local library, I was able to hear great field recordings by the likes of Alan Lomax and others. My initial way of collecting this music was to just record things I'd borrowed from the library onto cassettes. (I could never afford to actually buy records or tapes and still can barely do so).
At first I was solely collecting recordings of old folk music and blues, but in my later teenage years I started to open my ears up to all kinds of home recorded sounds. Genre became less and less important to me. Directness and intensity became the values I was looking for in music whether it be in punk rock, country, soul, R & B, psychedelia, classical or what ever else. Things got weird.
When I started the Mississippi label, I did so with the idea that we would champion home recorded music over studio recordings. Most of the artists we have reissued music by, originally produced their own recordings at home and even pressed and distributed their own records. There's an ethereal quality to these home recordings that I refuse to try to articulate. I'd rather the listener sit with this music and try to suss out for themselves why it has power. The more you talk about this stuff the more magic it loses...
This mix is all over the board. The theme is simply home recorded music, whether by the artist themselves or by field recordists who came over to visit. Some of the artists are very well known like Bo Diddley, who would work out his compositions at home on tape before hitting Chess studios to record, or Charlie Feathers who recorded at home all through his 40 year career using the same equipment... As a result you can't tell the difference between a recording made in 1955 or 1985 when it comes to Charlie. Some of these artists are not very well known – like Scott Dunbar who never left the small town of Lake Mary, Louisiana. Some of the artists are stalwarts of the Mississippi label like Michael Hurley, Marisa Anderson and Abner Jay.
The point of this mix is to show that the bloated magic sounds of the studio can take you pretty far in one direction... ain't nothing wrong with that studio sound when its used right - like on Phil Spector's genuinely psychotic wall of sound or George Martin's bizarrely perfect rock on the Beatles Revolver album or stuff like that.
I will grant that a fancy pants studio can achieve some magnificent things that a home studio never could. Conversely, home recording can achieve some amazing things that a studio never could no matter how hard it tried. Some things just can't be manufactured outside the home...