Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas: All-Time Greatest Hits

BillyJKramerWithTheDakotas_AllTimeGreatestHitsRiding the Beatles’ wake

Few British Invasion acts rode the Beatles coattails better than Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas. Not only were they managed by Brian Epstein and signed to the Parlophone label under the direction of George Martin, but more than half of their chart hits and several of their album tracks were penned by Lennon & McCartney themselves. And among the many L&M compositions, which included “I’ll Be on My Way,” “Bad to Me,” “I’ll Keep You Satisfied,” “From a Window,” “I Call Your Name” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” only the latter two were released by the Beatles. But even with this British dynamo in their corner, the group reached out to America for several hits, including the Brill Building’s Mort Schuman (and his eccentric co-writer J. Leslie “Pumpkin Juice” McFarland) for “Little Children.”

Varese’s concise, 32-minute collection (featuring an 8-page booklet with excellent liners by Jerry McCulley) includes all seven of the group’s U.S. and U.K. hits plus a handful of album tracks, non-charting singles and the shelved L&M tune “I’m in Love.” It’s a fair sampling of the group’s wares, stretching from their 1963 cover of “Do You Want to Know a Secret” through their last hit, a fine take on Bacharach and David’s “Trains and Boats and Planes.” Among the riches delivered by the British Invasion, the group’s recordings weren’t the most revelatory, but with such strong material to draw upon, a sweet lead voice and talented instrumental backings, they remain quite charming. There are deeper helpings and album reissues of the group’s catalog to be had, but for many, this taste will be just right. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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