78 Project – Volume 1, The [coll] – [78 Project, The]
What makes a musical project really exceptional and surprising is a lack of smarminess, a lack, or at least a reduction of, ego, and a level of sincerity and care that is not overblown, but meets the right balance. This is a difficult place to arrive at but when it’s done—- wow!
So along comes “The 78 Project – Volume 1”, a collection of artists large and small who are covering traditional songs. Sounds good. But the real draw is that “with just one microphone, one authentic 1930???s Presto direct-to-acetate disk recorder, and one blank lacquer disc, musicians are given one take to cut a record anywhere they choose.”
Hmmm…. My initial reaction was split- half ready to embrace, half ready to toss. Is it all just a little too charming? Well I hunkered down to listen and, boy, was I surprised. I was smiling by the first 30 seconds and continued throughout the whole two sides. What we have here are artists, professionals who understand music, the making of it and the recording and production of it, but who have tossed aside the contemporary experience for a basic, old time recording. Being faced with the technological limitations of using this old style 78 recording system, the musicians must stretch themselves to let go to get to the heart of what they do. It is a superb project and process to listen to. The recordings are strong in their simplicity. Acoustic instrumentation makes for a warm sound. Vocals shimmer. It is all so rich. The Presto recorder makes the music and vocals sound distant, like playing with memory. The noises of street sounds, animals barking, background noises, as well as the scratches and skips in the recording make it like a time machine listening party and the Presto recorder is that machine. Bravo for this project. Just pick a song and listen and think and feel and enjoy.