An essential set in terms of both quality and quantity, with no shortage of amazing performances to enjoy and discuss. The most radical aspects of the package are its emphasis on black performers and its thematic organization largely along social, racial, political and gender lines. … an invaluable musical and visual record of who we are as a people and a culture.
—Will Friedwald, Wall Street Journal,
July 29, 2023
Delson’s curation is creative. . . . her strongest points are made through juxtaposition. The introductory; section basically alternates Black bands and performers with white ones, allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions about the origins and virtuosi of American entertainment. . . . To use a term that migrated from Black slang to general usage during the 1940s, Soundies: The Ultimate Collection is a deep dig.
— J. Hoberman, New York Review of Books
September 2, 2023
While they might not have been formally in charge, the Black performers in Soundies likely had a lot of sway as collaborators to ensure that the results didn’t come off as square to Black viewers. I kept being surprised by bits of slang deployed seemingly before their time, as when June Richmond, in 1944’s “47th Street Jive,” sings, “I met a hip cat/ He called me a fly chick.”
That things-to-come feeling is most vivid in one of my favorite subsections of the Soundies collection, “Heading Toward Rock ’n’ Roll.” The eight songs here stage a mid-1940s debate over whether swing music was dead and what would follow. … The entire sequence suggests a counter-history in which, without the conservative backlash of the postwar years, jazz transitioned directly into rock without any radical break. The whole course of youth culture could have been different.
A pop-cultural X-ray of this pivotal decade much friskier than any history book.
—Carl Wilson, Slate
August 2, 2023