I think I'll also use this thread to sperg about music. Maybe some will enjoy reading it?
So these are going to come off as scratchy, but irregularly so. For example, on the first few seconds of part one, and with the blasting on some of the high points. Despite that, it happens to be one of the most important blues documentations of all time, and is really just an all-in-all great song.
Now, I don't own this record, as the one or two copies extant are of very high-value (30k-75k), tightly held by private hands, and therefore well out of my league unless I were to uncover one myself. Because a lot of collectors don't really take full pictures of these discs, I can't show you how much of a dog's frisbee Preachin' the Blues actually looks like. I can, however, show you one disc I do indeed own, which came into my hands via luck.
With this, you'll begin to notice a variety of things right off. Firstly, this is not a vinyl record, this is a shellac record. What that generally meant is that you'd have a record with a clay core - making it quite rigid - and then some chemical mixture of resin which would take the sound cut from the master; (actual bug shit was sometimes used, but not by cheaper companies). In the case of Paramount, they commonly used the same material used to make bowling pins, which made even the cleanest of records sound like garbage. Speaking of which, the above photo is obviously not what a clean record is meant to look like.
Here's another one I have, again for reference (but yes, for vanity too):
These in mind, you can begin to see what exactly is going on with the songs I posted earlier. Some of the grooves look individually grayed, there are various marks (needle drops), general graying, what almost looks like staining... There's even a crack on mine in particular which shows no sign of actual force, but is indeed a result of storage shrinking due to the horrendous quality of the pressing. You can actually see "rings" of sweet spots where there isn't much graying and the music might actually sound nice. This in mind, you can picture what the Son House disc might look like and why it sounds the way it does.
There's a lot one can appreciate about the Paramount process, but not much when it comes to the company itself. It targeted the deep southern race market of the time (late twenties and early thirties), and hired some really fantastic talent scouts who brought the absolute best
of the then unrecorded juke joint, streetside, and plantation performers into the Gennett studio, which was an historical juggernaut of recorded music by that time already.
And they had a much better pressing label, too:
The truth is, Paramount was considered a gimmick by their parent, who were the Wisconsin Chair furniture company. They wanted a subsidiary who could deal records to go with their gramophones, so they founded a garbage pressing plant out of an old knitting mill (the New York Recording Laboratories in Port Washington, WI) and gave their main line of records the Paramount label. They bought up a bunch of old assets from defunct companies like Black Swan and did mostly reissues and then really hit or miss pop/jazz until around 1925, when they properly introduced their race series.
They did pretty well with getting good masters from Gennett and then exclusively ruining the fidelity with their garbage records which wore out faster than school lunch sporks. They got Ma Rainey, Papa Charlie Jackson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, and then, with irony, they got their cream of the crop (Charlie Patton, Son House, Skip James...) right at the onset and height of the Great Depression, which put a lot of companies under, including Wisconsin Chair and their subsidiaries. The problem was that their disadvantaged demographic went from being impoverished to starving, allowing no extra money for records and consequently making the 1930-31 releases beyond rare in the present day.
And that's why the fidelity of those two sides is so terrible. Here are the other four from the records shown. Enjoy!