Various Artists – Watch The Closing Doors Vol. 1 (Year Zero/Southbound) CD REVIEW

Subtitled ‘A History Of New York’s Musical Melting Pot’, the first two-disc set in this five-part series covers the years 1945-’59.
Compiled by author Kris Needs, who contributes a 68-page booklet that presumably illuminates and contextualises the project, and how all the disparate music fits together (hapless reviewers just get a burn, and no booklet, so I can’t comment), it’s an ambitious undertaking.
From a purely historical perspective, it’s fascinating to realise that all this amazing 20th Century musical art came from one city, and to hear, for instance, Frankie Lymon’s impassioned adolescent pop up against Duke Ellington’s classic jazz or blues from Sonny Terry and Big Joe Turner.
But for sheer listening pleasure, Watch The Closing Doors makes for a lumpy experience. I mean, how many times can you sit through Allen Ginsberg’s admittedly epochal ‘Howl’, or John Cage’s avant-garde ‘Indeterminacy’? Although there’s nary a naff track, in the age of the instant download it’s hard to imagine a place for this series outside of historical and educational institutions.
Still, for those who love musical history, and the challenge of listening to seemingly jarring contrasts in style and sound while taking in a wider socio-cultural orbit, this one’s for you. GARY STEEL
Music = 3.5
Sound = 3

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