Have I ever used the word smorgasbord before in my life? I can’t remember. Anyway, this time it fits. I’ve known about Archive.org for a long time now, but it’s been a while since I visited. Frankly, there’s so much stuff there that I find it a bit overwhelming, but if you ever have a little free time and want to dig around for some musical gems, you can’t ask for a better place. They have a lot of live recordings – some of them surprisingly high quality. Some by bands and groups you know, a lot by people you never heard of. You can search by artist or you can browse. Some of the recordings have been reviewed, which will give you an idea about the sound quality and performance. You can download in a variety of formats – mp3, flac, ogg – or you can stream in a little radio on the page and judge whether you want it or not.
I found some nice concert recordings from Robyn Hitchcock, Sarah Jarosz and the Asylum Street Spankers. Something else I just recently found is a collection of digitized 78 rpm and wax cylinder recordings. You expect those to sound a bit scratchy, but some of them are quite clear. Lots of old ragtime, vaudeville and stuff like that. Just found a singer named Sophie Tucker that I really like. I’m going to spend a lot of time downloading those songs, especially Tucker’s.
Music is only one part of Archive.org, which is a non-profit organization creating a digital library, archiving all kinds of material – art, culture, websites, written material, podcasts, you name it. Kind of like a private, all-digital Library of Congress. I could literally immerse myself in this thing for days at a time.