Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Paul Robeson: The Complete EMI Sessions, 1928-1939

Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Paul Robeson: The Complete EMI Sessions, 1928-1939

Article excerpt

Paul Robeson: The complete EMI sessions, 1928-1939. EMI 2 15586 2 (7 CDs; a complete contents listing can be found at http://www.emiclassics.com or www.arkivmusic.com)

If you peruse the contents of this collection at either of the web sites listed above, you will discover many duplications of repertoire in the course of eleven years of recording activity. Robeson lived in London for much of that decade, his HMV sides (including one English Columbia side, CD1, Track 1) complement his Victors from the mid to late twenties. For anyone who wishes to hear more of one of the great voices of his day at his vocal peak, this set is highly desirable. In addition to all the issued sides (no mention is made of any unissued material, and there are no matrix or release numbers in the accompanying booklet), there are two excerpts transferred from the sound track of the film The Proud Valley, released by Ealing Studios in 1940, portraying a black American miner who goes to work in a Welsh colliery. It was Robeson's favorite among his films of that decade.

The Robeson HMVs document his increasing fondness for adding Russian songs to his recital repertoire as his politics grew increasingly drawn to the Soviet sphere of influence. However, there are also quite a few nakedly commercial sides. It may be that Robeson ennobled everything he sang, but one cringes just a bit from the perspective of 2009 at material that does nothing to counter rather obvious racial stereotyping. In the case of many other songs, one wonders whether Robeson really wished to record them or was encouraged to do so for royalties

Now that Robeson and the controversy that surrounded his life have passed into history, we are left with the recordings and are grateful. …

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