Though the Grammys celebrate the here and now, don't overlook these trips to yesteryear

Glenn Gould performs in the 1950s. (Herb Nott / Firefly Books)
Glenn Gould performs in the 1950s. (Herb Nott / Firefly Books)

Old music doesn’t get much play during Grammy season for obvious reasons. Excepting the centuries-old composers whose work is represented in the classical categories — nothing personal, Gustav Mahler — the annual honors don’t have much time for the thriving world of reissued and undiscovered music. 

So we find it worthy to now celebrate the five resurrected recordings that leaped across borders and decades to earn attention in the here and now. 

Issued by noted archival company the Numero Group, “Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta” gathers 1970s music from the landlocked central African country now known as Burkina Faso.

Mixing jazz, funk, French “ye-ye” and R&B and fusing it with rhythms born in Africa, the acts on the three-disc package include such nearly lost-to-time bands as Dafra Star, Echo Del Africa, Volta Jazz, and Les Imbattables Léopards. Equally thrilling is the 120-page hardbound book, which features astounding photos of the era from photographer Sory Sanlé.

Few recordings of the 20th century have resonated as pianist Glenn Gould’s recorded interpretations of J.S. Bach’s “The Goldberg Variations.” Then 22, Gould was propelled to international fame upon its release. 

What many didn’t realize was how many takes Gould made on his way to the finished collection. “The Goldberg Variations: The Complete Unreleased Recording Sessions June 1955” (Sony Classical) gathers all those takes and illustrates the extent of Gould’s perfectionism. There are over 300 of them, all of which remained virtually untouched on the master tapes until this project began.  

“Leonard Bernstein — the Composer” (Sony Classical) presents the complete works of the famed conductor/composer on 25 compact discs, and spans his entire career. Included are remastered versions of Bernstein’s long-running “Bernstein Conducts Bernstein” series, as well as his masses, symphonies, works for ballet — and everything else. 

That the music presented on “Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes From the Horn of Africa” survived at all is something of a miracle. On the brink of civil war in the late 1980s, archivists in charge of a vast collection of Somali music smuggled thousands of recordings from across the years to safe harbor in neighboring countries.

According to album notes, the tapes were buried to withstand airstrikes until they were relocated to safety at the Red Sea Foundation in current-day Somaliland. New York imprint Ostinato digitized a range of those tapes and selected the most intriguing for this collection. 

The oft-nominated vintage music label Dust-to-Digital is known for its dedication to lesser-known corners of global music, and its focus on a Texas gospel-blues preacher and singer for “Washington Phillips and His Manzarene Dreams” earned the group its current nomination.

Unlike most pre-war blues artists, Phillips didn’t play the guitar. Rather, he played a manzarene, a zither-like instrument with a curious, unearthly sound. Combined with a book featuring Grammy-nominated notes by co-producer Michael Corcoran, the release illuminates a nearly forgotten master. 

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