How did a Wisconsin chair company, producing records on the cheap and run by men with little knowledge of their audience or the music business, build one of the greatest musical rosters ever assembled under one roof? The answer lies in ‘The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1932’, this epic, two-volume omnibus of art, words and music housed in a limited-edition, hand-sculpted cabinet-of-wonder, was a shared vision by Jack White’s Third Man Records and Dean Blackwood from Revenant Records, with ICLA tasked to produce and print the various complicated components. Volume One covers the label’s improbable rise from 1917-1927.
The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records Volume I was a massive undertaking, requiring a team of 50 people to bring the collection to fruition. It is an extremely comprehensive collection, featuring an LP Folio that is fabricated from birch wood, decorated with laser-etched graphics and holds six 180-gram vinyl LP’s adorned with metallic gold embossed labels.
A 256-page case bound book provides the history of Paramount Records and biographies of some of Paramount Records jazz titans; Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, blues legends; Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House, Skip James and American divas; Ma Rainey, Alberta Hunter and Ethel Waters. The case bound book includes 200 restored original hand-drawn ads from the Chicago Defender, historic photographs, and images of Paramount’s many labels, sleeves, and jackets.
Volume I also includes a 360-page smyth sewn field guide designed to look like an old record catalog, offers biographies of each artist and a list of their recordings. Two newsprint catalogs and a Vista Talking Machine brochure round out the printed offerings. A needle diaphragm replica flash drive holds 800 re-mastered original recordings and first of its kind proprietary software to handle and play the songs. These components are all housed in a hand-crafted oak case, modeled after those that carried phonographs in the 1920’s.
The handcrafted wood box, based on the iconic Victrola VV-50, is constructed from quarter sawn oak with a wood collar over MDF for structural integrity and decorated with a molded escutcheon on top, featuring the Paramount eagle over an LP record. The wood box is finished with metal corners, hinge, latch, handle, hinge prop and crank hole, all electroplated to match the original antique brass look.
The interior lid of the box is decorated with a water transfer adorning the Wisconsin Chair Company logo and a metal plaque displaying the player model number. The metal plaque is also stamped with a sequential number to reflect the wood box’s unique number within the set of 5,000. The tray is fabricated from EVA foam and covered with a matching green period accurate velvet.
All components in The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records Volume I were engineered to fit together seamlessly and create a multi-layered reveal as each component is removed. The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records Volume I won the Grammy for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package in 2014.
“Spectacular” – NY Times
“An unprecedented anthology” – Rolling Stone
“It’s a history lesson, a dance hall, a bandstand, and a smoky blues parlor, all tucked neatly into one sturdy box. This is the Cabinet of Wonder, indeed” – Pitchfork / Best New Reissue / 9.2 out of 10
“Its existence makes a difference in the life of American pop” – NPR
“It’s an impressive object…with the heft of a hellhound. Few box sets bring the musical past to life in such a surprising and revealing way” – LA Times