Nick’s Olly Oakley Record Review of the Month

Every month a review of an Olly Oakley recording which readers can download in MP3 format.

Click here to see the George Morris version of  Columbian March published in BMG 


Recording matrix number: 2450b

Recording date: October 8th 1902

Label: Gramophone & Typewriter Co. GC-6358

(Reissued: Zonophone X-46262)

This recording formed part of Oakley’s first session of disc recordings for the Gramophone & Typewriter Company which stretched over three days from 6th to 8th October 1902. It is possible that the Windsor zither he was playing here predated the hollow neck range -although maybe not - that range had indeed already come into being in 1902. Whatever the instrument, the banjo tone of Oakley’s early recordings as far as the end of 1905 has a clarity and lightness quite distinct from the rich powerful tone which later was to become his trademark.

Oakley’s Columbian March is fairly faithful to the score although inevitably he adds embellishments, usually triplets, wherever he feels like it. Particularly delightful here are his occasional triplets played exclusively on the second and first (B to D) or fifth and first (G to D) open strings. A provisional tempo is gradually established during the first play through of the first section and from this he gradually warms things up until finally reaching a tempo he is satisfied with in the second half of the trio. Thereafter things remain nice and steady. This record seems to be designed to play at 75 rpm, not 78 (many of the earliest recordings were 75s while some from the early 1910s were 80s and therefore run too slowly on a standard 78 player). If you have and old-style wind-up player you may be able to adjust the revolution speed. If not, try my technique of draping an old tie over the record as it plays and placing a suitable weight to bring Olly back down to pitch. Otherwise this G major march will play in Bb major and the Columbians will have broken the record for the mile.

This is a fine five-star early Oakley recording with strong rhythm, great swing and a powerful percussive bass to set off the delicate bell-like upper string sound mentioned above. Those poor souls who take pleasure in counting Oakley fluffs will find no joy here.

Click here to download Columbian March in mp3 format 


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