Various Artists: Remember Me Baby- Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups Vol. 1

Terrific vocal group tracks from the Cameo Parkway vaults

Cameo Records, and its subsidiary Parkway label, were Philadelphia powerhouses from the mid-50s through the mid-60s. Parkway is best remembered for unleashing Chubby Checker and the Twist dance craze, first in 1960 and again in 1962, making “The Twist” the only recording to gain the #1 spot on the Billboard chart twice! The labels hit with other memorable Philly-area artists in the early ‘60s, including the Dovells, Orlons, Bobby Rydell and Dee Dee Sharp, and it’s on these formerly out-of-print hits (finally reissued in box set, best-of, and original album form over the past five years) that Cameo-Parkway’s considerable reputation rests. But there’s more to the Cameo story, both before and after novelty dance hits brought the labels’ releases to worldwide acclaim.

Alongside four artist-centric two-fer reissues by Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, the Orlons, and Terry Knight and the Pack, Collectors’ Choice and ABKCO (the latter of whom  purchased the Cameo catalog in the late ‘60s) have put together this collection of doo-wop styled vocal group singles. There are some well known names here, including the Skyliners, Dovells, Tymes, Turbans, Rays, and Lee Andrews, but – winningly – the tracks collected here are generally obscure. Rather than including the groups’ hits (a few of which were waxed for or reissued nationally on Cameo, many of which were recorded before or after the groups’ time with Cameo), this anthology digs deeply into the vaults, unearthing little known gems that haven’t been available in legitimate issue for many decades.

By the time many of these singles were recorded, the sun was setting on doo-wop styled vocal groups. But you can bet American Graffitti’s John Milner would’ve dug these sides, and with good reason, as many of them match up in every way to the brilliance of doo-wop’s earlier years. Highlights include the calypso flavor, falsetto vocal reaches and energetic strings of the Turbans’ “When You Dance,” the Tymes’ superb, Drifters-styled “Did You Ever Get My Letter?,” and the impeccably soulful and inconsolable vocal of The Anglos’ “Raining Teardrops.” Inexplicably, the latter never made it past a test-pressing, making this track one of this set’s most exciting discoveries for all but the doo-wop fanatic.

Other highlights are Rick and the Masters’ hand-clapping “I Don’t Want Your Love,” the duet lead of the Gleems’ ballad “Sandra Baby,” the Buddy Holly vocal flourishes of The Impacs’ “Tears in My Heart,” and The Dovells’ mixture of “Shortin’ Bread” and “You Can’t Sit Down” on their 1963 side “Short on Bread.” Ed Osborne’s liner notes document the itinerant nature of these groups, showing how many alighted at Cameo for only one or two releases. Still, when they did stop in, they often had plenty of gas left in their tanks. All sides mono, with recording and production details for most listed in the liner notes. All that remains is to ask: where’s volume two? [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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