Monday, March 15, 2010

TVD's Record Store Day 2010 Label Showcase | Vanguard Records

After a brief hiatus last week, we’re back with our record label spotlight series in anticipation of the day that celebrates the purveyors of their product—Record Store Dayarriving on April 17, 2010 this year.

First up in our series was Seattle’s indie upstarts, Sarathan Records, and we’re delighted to spend this week with the venerable Vanguard Records.

Founded in 1950 in New York City by brothers Maynard and Seymour Soloman, Vanguard Records has long held a reputation for eclectic, distinctive, and groundbreaking recordings, a tradition that holds strong today. The Vanguard Records catalog reads like a chronicle of American popular culture since the 1950s. The blues of Chicago, the folk of Greenwich Village, the earliest electronic experiments, the dance music that inspired a generation of DJs, and the most renowned singer-songwriters of today all trace their roots to Vanguard.

The number of historic and influential Vanguard releases is far too great to be discussed, or even listed, individually, but several landmark projects do demand special mention. In the mid-sixties, "Chicago/the Blues/Today" exposed the fiery urban blues of Chicago's clubs to a national audience for the first time, introducing prodigious talents such as Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, and influencing a generation of blues players including Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix. Likewise, John Hammond's landmark "Jazz Showcase Series" spotlighted some of the most gifted practitioners of this quintessentially American genre.

Vanguard artists Joan Baez, Ian & Sylvia, Buffy Saint Marie, and Mimi & Richard Farina spearheaded the folk music revival in the 1960s, with Baez becoming the genre’s first true superstar. Baez, alongside Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Bob Dylan, and many others, gave some of the most famous and lasting performances of the era at the Newport Folk Festival all of which were captured by Vanguard Records (to include Dylan's infamous "plugging in," a moment which ushered in a new era of pop music). Finally, dance and proto electronic records from Vanguard artists like,Jean-Jacque Perrey, Twilight 22, Camille Yarborough, and Alisha would later provide the indelible hooks for artists such as the Beastie Boys, Fatboy Slim, and DJ Shadow, helping to usher in the sampling revolution in hip-hop.

In recent years, Vanguard has continued its tradition of developing talented songwriters and performers within the music marketplace. Artists such as Matt Nathanson, Mindy Smith, Greg Laswell, and The Watson Twins, amongst others, have risen to national prominence on the strength of their respective Vanguard debuts. That tradition of artist development, alongside the continued viability of iconic Vanguard artists such as Levon Helm, Merle Haggard, and Robert Cray, form the basis for what Vanguard Records is in 2010.

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