Saturday, August 24, 2013

Oblivion Records

The company was formed based on a casual conversation between Long Island, New York record store owner, musician, and blues scholar Tom Pomposello, and college student and amateur recording engineer Fred Seibert, when Pomposello was musing about the best way to record and release his music. Seibert incorrectly suggested a major label was a thing of the past and the way of the future was that Pomposello should record himself. The two quickly formed a partnership.
Seibert hosted a Columbia University, WKCR-FM radio show, and had recorded Pomposello for his accompanying legendary country blues artist Mississippi Fred McDowell at The Gaslight Cafe in November 1971.They agreed that the tapes were a commercial offering that could be used to launch the label. Pomposello suggested the tongue-in-cheek name Oblivion, cadged from an obscure Leo Kottke album, mistakenly believing the name to be a satire.
Along with third partner Dick Pennington, who provided the initial financing, Oblivion released its maiden album, Mississippi Fred McDowell: Live in New York in the spring of 1972. 1972 also saw the release of the label’s only 45rpm single, “Johnny Woods: Mississippi Harmonica” from Fred McDowell’s sometime musical partner, harmonica player Johnny Woods.
Seibert’s interest was jazz, and by the end of 1972 the first jazz session was recorded, pointing the company towards the future. Marc Copland (then known as Marc Cohen) was a former Columbia student and mainstream jazz alto saxophone player[7] who came to WKCR with a trio and his saxophone plugged into an Echoplex and amplifier. Seibert heard kinship with Miles Davis’, Tony Williams', and John McLaughlin's electronic experiments, and with the addition of guitarist John Abercrombie recorded one of the earliest “electronic jazz” records, soon to be known as jazz fusion. The album (five stars from Down Beat Magazine was named “Friends” (Copland felt it was a collective effort), with a cover by a Columbia University based "outsider" Sam Steinberg,  it was Oblivion’s third release.
Pomposello’s blues scholarship was increasing and one area of particular interest was the state of the form in the immediate New York City metropolitan area, Oblivion’s home territory. Never a deep hotbed of traditional blues (Chicago, Illinois was the Northern U.S. center of the music), nevertheless New York had a reliable output over the postwar years by such artists as Elmore James, Wilbert Harrison, and Buster Brown. When guitarist & vocalist Charles Walker visited WKCR, Pomposello made it his mission to record him over a year’s time with various configurations of a dozen local players. Blues from the Apple came out in 1974 and fittingly credited to “Charles Walker & the New York City Blues Band.”
Joe Lee Wilson is a mainstream jazz vocalist who was making his name in Manhattan’s loft scene of the 1970s. He recorded a highly buzzed session at WKCR in 1972, which Oblivion launched as ‘’Livin’ High Off Nickels and Dimes’’, a New York jazz radio sensation in the autumn of 1974. Oblivion’s last album was its inspiration. ‘’Honest Tom Pomposello’’ was an album of Americana "roots music", spanning from the expected blues, to folk and R&B, utilizing nine musicians recorded over two years. With only two reliably commercial records, Fred McDowell’s Live in New York and Joe Lee Wilson’s Livin’ High Off Nickels and Dimes, Oblivion found it could no longer be sustained off the passions of its founders, the saga of many independent labels with inadequate capitalization. The company ceased operations in 1976.

Visit the link below to read more about Oblivion records, download (legally) all the releases, look at relevant photos from the sessions and more. Thanks go to Oblivion for sharing the music.


Steve626 said...


Thanks for this one. Very interesting history and some great music. Yet another gem I never knew existed.

Frank Jive said...

This is really wonderful stuff. I had only heard one track from this set ("You Got to Move") before today. Thanks, Fred, for keeping these recordings available. (Nowhere to leave a comment on the Oblivion blog that I could see, so I'm leaving it here. . . .)

Juanjo said...

Great stuff Absolutely cool!