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Louis Armstrong: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings Box set

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, January 28, 1997
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Editorial Reviews

Louis Armstrong recorded for RCA Victor for two relatively brief periods in his long career, in the early days of his big band (1932 to '33) and in the period when he broke up the orchestra and returned to a New Orleans-style smaller ensemble (1946 to '47). This four-CD set is evenly divided between the two periods. The early big bands--first drummer Chick Webb's and then the trumpeter's own--provide a comfortable setting for Armstrong, who simply reigned supreme among jazz soloists of the period, with peerless invention and a stunning flexibility. He was defining the jazz singer's art as well, his subtle phrasing transforming even casual songs as convincingly as his flamboyant horn. Purists have often mourned Armstrong's shift to large groups, but these are fine bands, driven along by potent drummers like Webb and Big Sid Carlett and manned by distinguished players like saxophonists Louis Jordan and Budd Johnson and pianist Teddy Wilson. The later recordings find Armstrong leading superb groups, with old associates like trombonist Kid Ory, clarinetist Barney Bigard, and drummer Zutty Singleton and classic repertoire like Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and Hoagy Carmichael's "Rockin' Chair." The Town Hall recordings from 1947, with Armstrong trading vocals and solos with trombonist Jack Teagarden, are among Louis's greatest work. The set also includes meetings with other musical icons. Armstrong provides bluesy trumpet accompaniment to country singer Jimmie Rodgers on a rendition of "Blue Yodel No. 9" and meets Duke Ellington on record for the first time on "Long, Long Journey." --Stuart Broomer

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. That's My Home
  2. Hobo, You Can't Ride This Train
  3. I Hate To Leave You Now
  4. You'll Wish You'd Never Been Born
  5. Medley Of Armstrong Hits-Part 1: I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You/When It's Sleepy...
  6. Medley Of Armstrong Hits-Part 2: When You're Smiling/St. James Infirmary/Dinah
  7. I've Got The World On A String
  8. I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues
  9. Hustlin' And Bustlin' For Baby
  10. Sittin' In The Dark
  11. High Society
  12. He's A Son Of The South
  13. Some Sweet Day
  14. Basin Street Blues
  15. Honey, Do!
  16. Snowball
  17. Mahogany Hall Stomp
  18. Swing, You Cats!

Disc: 2

  1. Honey, Dont You Love Me Anymore?
  2. Mississippi Basin
  3. Laughin' Louie
  4. Tomorrow Night
  5. Dusky Stevedore
  6. There's A Cabin In The Pines
  7. Mighty River
  8. Sweet Sue, Just You
  9. I Wonder Who
  10. St. Louis Blues
  11. Don't Play Me Cheap
  12. That's My Home (Alternate)
  13. Hobo, You Can't Ride This Train (Alternate)
  14. I Hate To Leave You Now (Alternate)
  15. You'll Wish You'd Never Been Born (Alternate)
  16. Medley Of Armstrong HIts-Part 2 (Alternate): When You're Smiling/St. James Infirmary/Dinah
  17. Mississippi Basin (Alternate)
  18. Laughin' Louie (Alternate)
  19. Tomorrow Night (Alternate)
  20. Blue Yodel No.9

Disc: 3

  1. Long, Long Journey
  2. Snafu
  3. Linger In My Arms A Little Longer
  4. Whatta Ya Gonna Do
  5. No Variety Blues
  6. Joseph 'N' His Brudders
  7. Back O' Town Blues
  8. I Want A Little Girl
  9. Sugar
  10. Blues For Yesterday
  11. Blues In The South
  12. Endie
  13. The Blues Are Brewin'
  14. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?
  15. Where The Blues Were Born In New Orleans
  16. Mahogany Hall Stomp
  17. I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder
  18. I Believe
  19. Why Doubt My Love?

Disc: 4

  1. It Takes Time
  2. You Don't Learn That In School
  3. Ain't Misbehavin'
  4. Rockin' Chair
  5. Back O' Town Blues
  6. Pennies From Heaven
  7. Save It Pretty Mama
  8. St. James Infirmary
  9. Jack-Armstrong Blues
  10. Rockin' Chair
  11. Some Day You'll Be Sorry
  12. Fifty-Fifty Blues
  13. A Song Was Born
  14. Please Stop Playin' Those Blues, Boy
  15. Before Long
  16. Lovely Weather We're Having
  17. Rain, Rain
  18. Never Saw A Better Day

Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 28, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: RCA
  • ASIN: B000003G75
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,114 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Douglas Benson on December 17, 2010
Format: Audio CD
This is fantastic Satchmo; the man is my hero and I love his early stuff. A complete collection like this is a wonderful thing to own... well, except that as a musician I find it hard to listen to the first two discs. Here's why:

In the 1990s many of the major label engineers who first began working with digital noise reduction (Cedar, Sonic Solutions) focused solely on the noise reduction. They strove to get rid of the scratch and hiss, sometimes with good results, sometimes with disappointing results, as the noise reduction also reduced the sensitive high frequencies of the music itself. Luckily in this case, the tonal characteristics of the music have been preserved nicely. The problems lie elsewhere.

Problem 1: all the records seem to have been transferred at the "standard" speed of 78.26 r.p.m. Victor actually used several other speeds as well, and many or most of these early Armstrongs are running too fast or too slow.

Problem 2: most of the records on the first two discs are off center to various degrees, and the pitch wobbles, making the whole band sound out of tune. This is something that needs to be tackled when the original transfers are made (and it's easy to do) but for some reason these guys didn't do it. Maybe they were working with early tape transfers or previous reissues instead of original discs.

Anyway, put these two things together, and the result (to me) is an almost unlistenable collection of fantastic recordings.

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Format: Audio CD
Considering the many and myriad ways RCA (now BMG-Sony) has parsed and packaged this material in bits and pieces, it is a relief to be able to get it all in one set. You won't hear it in better sound than this, and the material is essential for a comprehensive Armstrong collection. The first two discs are from the early thirties (my favorites), and the last two are recordings from 1946-47. The generous liner notes are by Armstrong authority Dan Morgenstern. If there is a complaint, it would be the relatively minor one of the graphic artist having chosen the large but hard-to-read (Broadway?)typeface for the song titles. And nowhere is there a consolidated list of song titles on the back of the case or anywhere else. No matter. This is great stuff, and not to be missed.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
When RCA Records and BMG released this symbolic 4-CD set, we came to realize
that we would get the priveliged opportunity to hear three full-length sessions from
The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (1933-48), and with great thanks to RCA as
well as BMG, this entire set has plenty of timeless music to enjoy. However, during
that time before 1947, do you realize that record companies would sell a recorded
session in 78 sets? The answer seems to be a historic yes, and what I like to add
in this review are three honourable reviews to the three recorded sessions each--
starting with this one, where a review for each of them will be included.

Young Louis Armstrong. (1933)
"A Towering Music Achievement Done With Jubilation!
Making the switch to RCA Victor Records after his stay with Columbia Records,
Louis Armstrong would again impressed listeners and the critics with this landmark
ambitious recorded session (or 78 set) that also became a fascinating in-the-studio
experience for him and the celebrated jazz master. Recorded between December
of 1932 and 1933 and released in it’s 78 set format in 1933—and released in it’s 2-
LP format in the late-1970’s, Young Louis Armstrong showcases a large ensemble
jamboree that is heralded by first class arranging, high-swinging vitality, Satchmo’s
versatile trumpet- vocal solos performed with class and defining skill, excellent pep
and occasional dashes of honour and jubilation mixed together that made this epic
recorded session a complete success.
Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Just take a look at The Complete Town Hall Concert Jazz Tribune No. 43. You will see things that RCA released in that set that are not on this set. This set is great, but it is incomplete, though it does have a few selections from that particular RCA-released concert, so they obviously did not simply forget that concert when they released this set. And they did not fix this issue with their re-release of this set (see Complete Rca Victor Recordings), they had a second chance at correcting this error, but they still did not release a complete set. Calling this "complete" is basically fraud. (Look up "fraud" in an ordinary dictionary, if you are unclear on the concept.)

As for the music, this is a great set, not to be missed. But you are not getting the complete recordings of Armstrong on RCA; they are lying to you, and you should know that when you buy this.

You will need to also buy that other set (The Complete Town Hall Concert Jazz Tribune No. 43) if you want to possibly get all of the RCA-released songs of Armstrong; that set contains a full 14 recordings released by RCA that are not on this supposedly "complete" set. And who knows what else they might have omitted, as they obviously cannot be trusted to tell you that they are giving you something complete.
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