New Empire Ballroom Ragtime Orchestra, The – Fabulous Music of the Roaring 20’s


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SKU: TN2404-86 Category:


CD review by Tony Smith

TN2404-86 – $20

TN155 Apr 23

Apart from the fact that there are 17 tracks on this album and that there seem to be about 17 players in the pictures of the musicians dressed in period costume with their instruments, and vintage cars, there is very little information available on this CD.

The melodies and arrangements are easy on the ear and without a detailed scrutiny of the sheet music, the tunes and songs seem to have been recreated faithfully.

Having said that, it would not hurt to have composers listed alongside their works.

They can hardly be described as ‘traditional’ or of anonymous origin.

This music evokes the period well, as far as we mere young people can ascertain, having no memory of our own to draw upon.

It is interesting however, that some of these tunes survived into the fifties and sixties when many of us baby-boomers enjoyed Old Time and 50-50 dances.

The latter term was used to describe a mix which aimed to satisfy two generations and probably failed to satisfy either.

Inevitably, we ingested some of those old favourites that we sang doing barn dances, foxtrots, the Pride of Erin and the gypsy tap.

The tracks are ‘Charlston’ (sic), ‘I’ve found a new baby’, ‘Five foot two’, ‘The mooch’, ‘Who’, ‘That’s my weakness now’, ‘Yes sir that’s my baby’, ‘Chilli bom bom’, ‘Sweet Sue’, ‘Singing in the rain’ (this might be out of period but fits the orchestra’s repertoire very well), ‘Shake that thing’, ‘Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf’, ‘I want to be happy’, ‘Black Bottom’, ‘Whispering’, ‘Shaking the Blues Away’ and ‘That’s a Plenty’.

This is a band from the Central Coast of New South Wales.

Barney Waters is both musical director and has charge of business management.

Piano and a strong string section lay the foundations of the melody, so that the brass and woodwind players can weave in and out.

Banjo and tuba make cameo appearances.

The percussion section, while maintaining a strong dance beat, makes little humorous interventions like the use of the cow bell during pauses.

The vocalists do a really good job, attaining that megaphone sound of the era.

These tracks remind us that the aim of most of the music of the twenties and subsequent decades was making innocent fun.

The cynicism of the postwar period with its disillusioned youth, a cold war that threatened to end civilisation and rampant consumerism was a different world.

It is not difficult to see Fry and Laurie in the Jeeves and Wooster series working on similar songs, or to envisage ‘flappers’ dancing all night to these tunes.

This is an album full of nostalgia for a time before the depression and the second world war spread fear and unhappiness.

Additional information

Weight .160 kg
Dimensions 21 × 15 × 1.0 cm


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