Posts Tagged ‘Girlgroup’

In Memoriam: 2014

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

January
Jay Traynor, vocalist (Jay & The Americans)
Phil Everly, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter
Saul Zaentz, record company and film executive
Reather Dixon Turner, vocalist (The Bobbettes)
Dave Madden, actor and manager (Partridge Family)
Steven Fromholz, vocalist and songwriter
Pete Seeger, vocalist, songwriter and banjo player
Anna Gordy Gaye, record company executive and songwriter

February
Shirley Temple, vocalist, actress, dancer and diplomat
Sid Caesar, comedian, saxophonist and clarinetist
Bob Casale, guitarist and keyboardist (Devo)
Maria Franziska von Trapp, vocalist (Trapp Family Singers)
Chip Damiani, drummer (The Remains)
Franny Beecher, guitarist (Bill Haley and His Comets)
Peter Callander, songwriter and producer

March
Scott Asheton, drummer (The Stooges)
Joe Lala, percussionist and actor
Frankie Knuckles, DJ and producer

April
Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith, string player and songwriter
Wayne Henderson, trombonist (The Jazz Crusaders)
Mickey Rooney, actor, singer and entertainer
Leee Black Childers, photographer, writer and manager
Jesse Winchester, singer, guitarist and songwriter
Deon Jackson, vocalist
Kevin Sharp, vocalist

May
Bobby Gregg, drummer (Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel)
Dave Diamond, disk jockey
Andre Popp, composer and keyboardist
Cubie Burke, vocalist (The Five Stairsteps) and dancer
Jerry Vale, vocalist

June
Weldon Myrick, steel guitarist
Little Jimmy Scott, vocalist
Casey Kasem, disc jockey
Horace Silver, pianist and composer
Johnny Mann, arranger, composer and vocalist
Gerry Goffin, songwriter
Jimmy C. Newman, vocalist
Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, guitarist and songwriter
Bobby Womack, vocalist and guitarist
Paul Horn, flautist

July
Lois Johnson, vocalist
Tommy Ramone, drummer and producer
Charlie Haden, bassist
Johnny Winter, guitarist and vocalist
Elaine Stritch, vocalist and actress
Don Lanier, songwriter, guitarist and A&R executive
George Riddle, guitarist and songwriter
Idris Muhammad, drummer
Dick Wagner, guitarist
Velma Smith, guitarist

August
Rod de’Ath, drummer (Rory Gallagher)
Rosetta Hightower, vocalist (The Orlons)
Velva Darnell, vocalist

September
Bob Crewe, producer and songwriter
Cosimo Matassa, studio owner (J&M Recording) and engineer
Joe Sample, keyboardist
Tom Skeeter, studio owner (Sound City)
George Hamilton IV, vocalist and guitarist
Priscilla Mitchell, vocalist (a.k.a. Sadina)
Mark Loomis, guitarist (The Chocolate Watchband)

October
Paul Revere, band leader and keyboardist (Paul Revere and the Raiders)
Jan Hooks, comedienne and vocalist (The Sweeney Sisters)
Lou Whitney, bassist, producer and engineer
Tim Hauser, vocalist (The Manhattan Transfer)
Paul Craft, songwriter
Raphael Ravenscroft, saxophonist
Jeanne Black, vocalist
Jack Bruce, bassist, vocalist and songwriter (Cream)

November
Acker Bilk, clarinetist
Rick Rosas, bassist (Joe Walsh, Neil Young)
Jimmy Ruffin, vocalist
Dave Appell, band leader, arranger, producer and songwriter
Clive Palmer, banjoist (Incredible String Band)

December
Bobby Keys, saxophonist
Ian McLagan, keyboardist
Graeme Goodall, engineer and record company executive
Bob Montgomery, songwriter and vocalist
Dawn Sears, vocalist
Rock Scully, band manager (Grateful Dead)
John Fry, producer, engineer, record label and studio executive (Ardent)
Larry Henley, songwriter and vocalist
Chip Young, guitarist and producer
Joe Cocker, vocalist
Buddy DeFranco, clarinetist

Patty Duke: The United Artists Albums

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

PattyDuke_DontJustStandTherePattyDon’t Just Stand There / Patty
The world’s most popular teenager’s first two albums

Actors crossing over to the recording arts and sciences have had a long and spotty history. For a precious few, recording was a return to an earlier music career that was subsequently given a boost by their acting fame. For many others – think William Shatner or the cast of Bonanza – records were a quick cash-in that provided new marketing opportunities and gave fans an unusual musical memento. Capitalizing on her childhood stardom in film, theater and television, United Artists launched Patty Duke into the music world with four albums and a short string of hit singles. Though Duke wasn’t as vocally refined as her chart contemporaries, her theatrical talent, confidence and professionalism proved to be valuable assets in the recording studio.

Duke’s debut was titled after the album’s first and biggest hit, “Don’t Just Stand There.” The Top 10 single is a brooding piece of orchestrated pop whose mood and double-tracked vocals closely resemble Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t OwnMe.” Duke didn’t have the vocal depth of Gore, but as an actress she imbued the lyrics with intrigue and emotion. The album’s second hit, “Say Something Funny,” is a nicely wrought song of concealed heartbreak, written by the same team (Bernice Ross and Lor Crane) that had penned “Don’t Just Stand There,” and once again providing Duke an opportunity to create pathos from the song’s emotional storyline. Ross and Crane also contributed the waltz time “Ribbons & Roses,” whose dramatic arrangement and folk-tinged melody are a good fit for Duke.

The breezy “Everything But Love,” Gary Lewis’ “Save Your Heart for Me” and Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World” lend Duke the charm of earlier girl singers like Annette Funicello and Shelley Fabares. Less successful is an unsteady remake of Nat King Cole’s early ’50s ballad “Too Young,” and covers of then-contemporary pop hits, “Downtown,” “Danke Schoen,” “A World Without Love” and “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Stacking these covers against the originals of Petula Clark, Wayne Newton, Peter & Gordon and Jackie DeShannon, Duke’s versions sound more like novelties than artistic reconsiderations. A pair of bonuses from the film Billie includes the sweet Top 100 single “Funny Little Butterflies” and a stagier flip that reused the melody of the A-side.

Duke’s self-titled second album was released in 1966, the year after her debut, and followed a similar template of combining new material (including the minor hit “Whenever She Holds You”) that suggests earlier girl vocalists, with covers of recent pop songs. The latter, particularly the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” play well to Duke’s dramatic abilities, but aren’t always well-served by her limited vocal accuracy. Double-tracked vocals are used to agreeably sweeten several tracks, such as covers of Gary Lewis’ “Sure Gonna Miss Him” and the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do is Dream.”

PattyDuke_ValleyOfTheDollsSingsFolkSongsValley of the Dolls / Sings Folk Songs
Third pop album and a resonant folk set

Patty Duke’s first album had yielded the Top 10 hit “Don’ t Just Stand There,” but subsequent singles charted lower and lower. By the time she released her third album, Songs From Valley of the Dolls, Duke’s television program had ended, and her acting turn in the title film had left her wholesome teenage image behind. The material for her third album reflects this transition, having moved on from teen-themed love songs to more sophisticated and theatrical compositions by Dory and Andre Previn, including the film theme from Valley of the Dolls. As on her earlier albums, Duke shined more brightly as a dramatist than a vocalist, though by this point she (or more likely, her producers) felt comfortable enough to often leave her voice undoubled, exposing some pitch problems but letting her expressiveness and emotion shine.

Unlike he crooning of her teen hits, Duke sings the Previns’ material in the muscular style of a Broadway show, and it suits her well. The wear in her delivery gives the film’s title theme a wholly different feel than Dionne Warwick’s hit (which, incredibly, reached #2 as the B-side of “I Say a Little Prayer”), one that’s clearly emblematic of Neely O’Hara’s condition at the end of the film. The second half of the album departs from the Previns’ material and returns to lighter fare produced in the pop vein of Duke’s earlier albums, including the empowered “My Own Little Place” and the fuzz-guitar, bass and horn-driven “A Million Things to Do.” In addition to the album’s eleven tracks, the previously unreleased contemporary pop “I Want Your Love” is included.

Duke’s last album for United Artists is a collection of surprisingly compelling covers of contemporary and classic folk songs. The album was left in the vault at the time of its 1968 recording, though a single of “And We Were Strangers” backed with “Dona, Dona” was released with little fanfare. The expressiveness of Duke’s voice is better served by these gentler backing arrangements, and relieved of the need to belt out teen-oriented material, she really shines. Her recitation of “The Bells of Rhymney” is a memorably original approach to a song whose association with the Byrds is nearly unseverable. United Artists apparently didn’t think the record buying public would gravitate to a post-teen TV star’s interpretations of folks songs, which is a shame, because this is Duke’s most musically satisfying of her four albums for UA.

Those who remember Duke’s singing career most likely remember her earlier records, particularly the single “Don’t Just Stand There.” Her first two albums will generate a stronger element of nostalgia, but this second pair is actually the superior musical experience. All four albums provide charming memories of Duke’s years as the world’s most famous teenager, and the immediate years thereafter. Each two-fer CD is delivered with a sixteen-page booklet that includes full-panel cover reproductions and detailed liner notes. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Patty Duke’s Home Page

Various Artists: Cameo Parkway Holiday Hits

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Holiday odds and sods from the legendary Cameo Parkway vault

With the departure of Gordon Anderson from Collectors’ Choice, and the apparent sidelining of the label’s activities, their reissue program for the Cameo-Parkway catalog has moved with Anderson to his new label, Real Gone. This eighteen-track set of holiday-themed material combines tunes from two of the label’s stars, Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker and two of the label’s fine doo-wop groups, the Cameos and Jaynells. The track-list features a number of fun one-offs, including Bob Seger’s rock ‘n’ soul “Sock it to Me Santa,” Toni Sante’s Spanish-language girl group “Donde Esta Santa Clause?,” and a funny Bob Dylan lampoon, Bobby the Poet singing “White Christmas,” as introduced by a Bobby Kennedy impressionist. There are also two versions of “Auld Lang Syne,” one in ragtime style by Beethoven Ben (in actuality, label co-founder Bernie Lowe), and one as bluegrass by The Lonesome Travelers, featuring the legendary Norman Blake on mandolin!

Less interesting are seven cuts split between the big band instrumentals of the Rudolph Statler Orchestra and the orchestral sounds of the International Pop Orchestra. Neither unit has anything to do with the Cameo Parkway house band sound (though, to be fair, neither do the Lonesome Travelers), and the arrangements are generic. This set was previously issued by ABKCO as Holiday Hits from Cameo Parkway, and it’s reissued here with the addition of the B-side “Jingle Bell Imitations,” in which Rydell and Checker run through the styles of Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Fats Domino, Frank Fontaine and the Chipmunks. It’s a shame Cameo Parkway never gathered Checker, Rydell, Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons, Tymes and others to record a proper holiday album. Still, if you factor out the instrumentals, there are many fine rarities here to add to your holiday playlist. Nicely mastered mono on 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, and stereo elsewhere. The booklet includes terrific liner notes by Gene Sculatti and discographical details. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Various Artists: The Essential Phil Spector

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Spector’s genius before, during and after Philles

After decades of uneven reissues – dribs and drabs in the U.S. and abroad – Phil Spector’s catalog is finally being cross-licensed for reissue. The first break came with the catalog’s owner, ABKCO, issuing the Back to Mono set in 1991; but the larger breakthrough has been the licensing to Universal and Sony/Legacy that’s resulted in the Phil Spector Collection and a set of artist compilations on the Crystals, Ronettes and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans issued earlier this year. That licensing is now paying additional dividends with the release of Phil Spector Presents the Philles Album Collection and this new 34-track Phil Spector collection. Note that this 2-CD set is a Phil Spector volume rather than one dedicated solely to his years with Philles.

The set opens with pre-Philles sides from the Teddy Bears (Spector’s first #1), Ray Peterson, Ben E. King, Curtis Lee, Gene Pitney and the Paris Sisters. The tour through his hits at Philles includes The Crystals, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, Darlene Love, the Ronettes, Righteous Brothers, and Ike and Tina Turner. Outside of Philles is a cover of the Beatles’ “Hold Me Tight” that mixes ‘50s doo-wop singing with Spector’s evolving production style, and Spector’s brilliant original “Black Pearl,” by Sonny Charles and the Checkmates. The latter suggested a continuing run as a dominant auteur in the ‘70s, but it didn’t go that way. Legacy’s done a fine job of cross-licensing material from K-Tel, Universal, Warner, EMI and others to pull together a compelling picture of Spector’s hit singles.

Given the wide availability of nearly everything here, this isn’t going to satisfy Spector collectors, but it’s a concise tour through the highlights of his most productive years. Its look at the Philles catalog isn’t as thorough as the earlier multi-disc sets, but the inclusion of pre- and post-Philles sides, hits by the Righteous Brothers, Ike & Tina’s “River Deep, Mountain High” and Sonny Charles’ “Black Pearl,” paint a picture that tells the tale from Spector’s first hit to his last as a producer who’s name rose above those of his artists. This set fits nicely between the single disc Wall of Sound: The Very Best of Phil Spector and the two-disc import Phil Spector Collection, and will inform a new generation of listeners for whom the revolutionary producer’s infamy has eclipsed his fame. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Various Artists: Phil Spector Presents The Philles Album Collection

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Six original Philles albums plus B-side instrumental bonuses

Much like the Cameo-Parkway catalog, Phil Spector’s seminal records of the 1960s are only recently starting to see the reissues they deserve. For years they were reissued in dribs and drabs – greatest hits packages repeating the same chart entries, hard-to-find vinyl albums from the UK leaking out stereo mixes, reissues of the Christmas album, and so on. The 1991 box set Back to Mono and the more recent Phil Spector Collection each dug more deeply into the catalog, but there was still much to be done. With Sony’s Legacy division having obtained reissue rights, 2011 kicked off with anthologies of the Ronettes, Crystals, Darlene Love and Spector’s other hit productions. The reissues now continue with this box set of six original Philles albums, packaged in reproduction mini-LP sleeves.

Among the albums are three by the Crystals (although, as will be seen, they hold little more than one album’s worth of original material), one each by the Ronettes and Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, and a 1963 collection of label hits. Philles, like the pop music industry of its time, was focused on singles, with albums being little more than promotional afterthoughts. These albums were built around existing singles, and filled out with previously released material and album sides. Though some of the album material failed to match the brilliance of the hits, and the productions weren’t always as lavish, neither were the tracks often throwaway filler. The Philles singles pipeline was well-stocked through these years, and otherwise hit-worthy tracks simply couldn’t find room in the release schedule. The set’s designated filler is disc seven’s collection of instrumental B-sides; but even here you get the Wrecking Crew in their prime.

The box kicks off with PHLP-4000, The Crystals Twist Uptown from 1962, which opens with the group’s second hit, Mann & Weil’s thrilling urban love song, “Uptown.” Their first hit, the divine “There’s No Other (Like My Baby),” is here too, but it’s the album tracks that are likely to be new to many listeners. Spector’s co-write with Doc Pomus, “Another Country – Another World,” puts a fresh spin on an outcast love by replacing class separation with a cultural divide. Several of the songs, including “Oh Yeah, Maybe Baby” (featuring Patsy Wright on lead vocal) and “What a Nice Way to Turn Seventeen,” feel the pull of ‘50s doo-wop and earlier girl groups like the Chantels, but the swirling strings, clacking castanets and underlying baion beats mark these as Spector’s. The album take of “On Broadway” predates the Drifters hit, and the group’s cover of “Gee Whiz” (retitled “Gee Whiz Look at His Eyes (Twist)”) followed Carla Thomas’ original by a year.

The Crystal’s second album, PHLP-4001 He’s a Rebel, was released in 1963 to capitalize on the hit single “He’s a Rebel.” The track list repeats nine selections from the debut, dropping “Please Hurt Me” and “Gee Whiz,” and adding the title single alongside the hit “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” and the notorious “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss).” The title hit holds two major distinctions: it was Spector’s first chart topper with Philles (he’d scored a #1 with the Teddy Bears in 1958), and it wasn’t actually the Crystals singing – it was Darlene Love (obscurely referenced by her then-married name Darlene Peete in Mick Patrick’s liner notes) and the Blossoms. Accounts vary as to how the Crystals name was bestowed upon Darlene Love, and it’s unclear if the failure of “He Hit Me” (a song whose violent theme is all the more chilling given Spector’s personal history) was a factor, but Spector began recording Love and her backing group in Los Angeles and hit the jackpot with “He’s a Rebel,” as well as “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.”

The group’s third album, PHLP-4003 The Crystals Sing The Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 isn’t entirely a Crystals album. It includes only one new Crystals recording, 1963’s “Da Doo Ron Ron” (featuring Lala Brooks on lead vocal) and fills out the track list with repeats from the group’s first two albums, the leftover “Look in My Eyes”, and four dance-themed titles (three covered from the Cameo-Parkway catalog: “The Wah Watusi,” “Mashed Potato Time” and “The Twist”) sung by the Ronettes. The latter had yet to release anything on Philles, and these covers weren’t repeated on Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica. Still, with the Crystal’s second album having mostly repeated their first, and their third cherry-picking from the first two, Spector showed his allegiance to the single as his ultimate format, as well as his savvy in picking the pockets of unsuspecting record buyers.

Philles’ third album, PHLP-4002 Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, was dedicated to Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, a group that had three hit singles. Two of the hits are here, and the third (“Not Too Young to Get Married”) is on disc five of this set, Philles Records Presents Today’s Hits. Bob B. Soxx was vocalist Bobby Sheen, who was supposed to be backed by Darlene Love and her fellow Blossom, Fanita James. But once they began to record, Spector had Love step to the front and provide the lead vocals for everything but “Dear (Here Comes My Baby)” and the bluesy “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right.” The album tracks generally haven’t the energy of the singles, with album filler like “White Cliffs of Dover” trying, but mostly failing to capture the magic of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” The one real discovery, aside from Sheen’s two tracks, is the funky Jackie DeShannon tune “I Shook the World.” The album closes with the instrumental B-side “Dr. Kaplan’s Office,” suggesting that Spector lost interest before producing a full album of twelve tracks.

The Ronettes only full-length album, PHLP-4006 Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica, was issued in 1964 and collected their five biggest hits, “Be My Baby,” “Baby, I Love You,” “(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up,” “Do I Love You?” and “Walking in the Rain.” Also included was their earlier recording of “So Young,” credited at that time to Veronica, a pair of non-charting singles (“How Does it Feel?” and “When I Saw You”) and four album tracks (“I Wonder,” “What’d I Say,” “You Baby,” and “Chapel of Love,” the latter written for the group and recorded the year before the Dixie Cups had a hit, but not issued as a single). The album peaked at #96, and though the group would release excellent singles in 1965 and 1966 (and record many that Spector withheld, including “Girls Can Tell” and “Paradise”), their star had peaked. The album, never before officially reissued on CD in its original form, continues to be a collector’s item, and is presented here, like all tracks in this box, in mono.

The fifth disc in this collection, PHLP-4004 Philles Records Presents Today’s Hits, repeats six tracks from the Crystals’, Ronettes’ and Bob. Soxx and the Blue Jeans’ albums, but fills in six more Philles hits. Chief among them is the Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” and a pair of favorites by Darlene Love (“Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home” and “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry”), but also essential is Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans’ third hit (“Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts”), Darlene Love’s “Playing for Keeps” and the Alley Cats’ energetic doo-wop “Puddin ‘n’ Tain,” featuring Bobby (“Soxx”) Sheen on high-tenor. The added tracks flesh out the Philles picture, and the repeated tracks provide further evidence of albums being marketing items rather than artistic statements.

The last disc in this collection, credited to The Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra, and titled Phil’s Flipsides, presents the rarest material. The seventeen B-sides are instrumental flipsides of Spector hits, duly purposed to be cheap to produce,  and to keep DJs focused on the A-sides. These are a mix of backing tracks and two-minute jams by Spector’s assembled workforce, name-checking Wrecking Crew stars (and Spector’s psychiatrist and first wife) in the song titles. In addition to the pop sounds you’d expect from Spector’s band, there are some fine jazz and blues workouts, with sax, piano and guitar stretching out on lead and Julius Wechter’s vibraphone adding atmosphere. Spector’s instrumental B’s for the short-lived Phil Spector label (“Larry L.” and “Chubby Danny D”) are included, but contemporaneous flips on Annette (including “Beatle Blues”) and Shirley are omitted.

Each of the albums clock in at roughly 30 minutes, suggesting these could have been doubled-up, but it’s hard to fault Legacy’s artistic decision to reissue each in their original form in mini-LP sleeves. Given U.S. royalty laws (which charge per-track, rather than per-album), two-fers wouldn’t necessarily have cost any less anyway. There’s one album missing from Philles initial run, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, which has been reissued several times, most recently in 2009. The tail-end of Philles album releases, including three from the Righteous Brothers, one from Lenny Bruce, and the aborted 1966 release of Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep – Mountain High await a second box. The Turner title was issued in 1969 by A&M and reissued earlier this year by Hip-O Select.

All of the albums have been newly transferred by Kabir Hermon and Steve Rosenthal, and remastered by Vic Anesini, but some collectors will no doubt grouse about the lack of stereo mixes, particularly the well-circulated Ronettes and Christmas cuts. Others will note the repetition within the box, overlap between the box and the group compilations released earlier this year, the lack of rare and unreleased material, etc.; all fair criticisms, but really beside the point. Legacy is scratching an itch felt by many collectors to get reproductions of the original artifacts – the original albums. Is it a good value? That depends on how highly you prize what Legacy’s reproducing, rather than what they’re not. Spector may have dismissed albums as two hits and ten pieces of filler, but his vanity as a producer rarely let him attach his name to junk. The concentration of A-list singing, playing, producing, arranging and writing represented on these discs is nearly unprecedented, making even the instrumental B-sides shine brightly. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Preview: The Philles Album Collection

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Coming on October 18th is a box set that many Phil Spector fans have been waiting for. The seven-disc set will include six original albums from Spector’s Philles label:

  • The Crystals Twist Uptown (The Crystals, 1962)
  • He’s a Rebel (The Crystals, 1963)
  • Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah (Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, 1963)
  • The Crystals Sing the Greatest Hits, Volume 1 (The Crystals, 1963)
  • Philles Records Presents Today’s Hits (Various, 1963)
  • Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica (The Ronettes, 1964)

and a bonus disc,

  • Phil’s Flipsides (The Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra)

This represents six of Philles’ first seven albums (the seventh, A Christmas Gift for You, has been reissued separately and as part of box sets several times), and includes numerous non-hit album tracks that have not been included on standard Spector anthologies. The bonus disc provides sixteen rare B-sides that Spector used to pad his hit singles (and, with no commercial appeal, to ensure jocks stuck to the A-side). On the same day, a two-CD hits collection, The Essential Phil Spector, will be released.

You can pre-order the box set at www.philspector.com and Amazon.com, or find it through standard retail on October 18th. Check back here for a review in October!

Darlene Love: The Sound of Love – The Very Best of Darlene Love

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Fresh transfer and remaster of Darlene Love’s best

With the Philles catalog now in the licensing hands of Sony Legacy and EMI, the fiftieth anniversary of the label’s 1961 founding is being celebrated with a new round of reissues. First out of the gate are remastered best-of collections for the Ronettes, Crystals, Darlene Love and Phil Spector. This 17-track Darlene Love collection proves that while Ronnie Spector (nee Veronica Bennett) may have been Spector’s greatest heartthrob, Darlene Love was his vocal MVP. As the lead vocalist on key singles by Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, the Blossoms (both under their own name, and as the West Coast version of the Crystals), and solo singles, not to mention her work with the Blossoms as go-to backing vocalists, Love’s voice was as important an element of the Wall of Sound as the Wrecking Crew’s drums, guitars, pianos and basses.

Included here are tunes by the Crystals, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans (though not their first hit, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” on which Bobby Sheen sang lead), the Blossoms, and solo sides. This collection mostly duplicates the track line-up of ABKCO’s out-of-print 1992 Best of Darlene Love, dropping “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” and a pre-Dixie Cups version of “Chapel of Love,” and adding four titles: the Blossoms’ “No Other Love, “That’s When the Tears Start” and “Good Good Lovin’,” and Love’s “Strange Love.” A couple of her lower charting singles (the pre-Philles “Son-in-Law” with the Blossoms, and the 1992 soundtrack single “All Alone on Christmas”) are absent, but more puzzlingly, neither the earlier or current collection includes Love’s signature holiday pièce de résistance, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

Though all this material has been previously released, several of Love’s solo tracks went unissued at the time of their recording, turning up a decade later on rarities anthologies. Among these are “Run Run Runaway,” “A Long Way to Be Happy,” and the brilliant Poncia and Andreoli song, “Strange Love.” Fleshing out her post-Philles career is a soulful 1965 turn on Van McCoy’s “That’s When the Tears Start” (produced by Reprise staffer Jimmy Bowen) and a 1975 session with Phil Spector on Mann and Weil’s “Lord, If You’re a Woman.” As with the other volumes in this series, this isn’t the vault discovery fans are waiting for, and the lack of stereo (except tracks 16 and 17) will vex long-time collectors, but with ABKCO’s earlier best-of out of print, this is a welcome return to retail of Love’s classic sides. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

The Ronettes: Be My Baby – The Very Best of the Ronettes

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Fresh mono transfer and remaster of Ronettes’ best

With the Philles catalog now in the licensing hands of Sony Legacy and EMI, the fiftieth anniversary of the label’s 1961 founding is being celebrated with a new round of reissues. First out of the gate are remastered best-of collections for the Ronettes, Crystals, Darlene Love and Phil Spector. This 18-track set includes all eight of the group’s Philles singles (all of which charted, but amazingly flew under the Top 10 except “Be My Baby”), Veronica’s “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall in Love” and “So Young,” the album tracks “I Wonder” and “You Baby,” the B-side “When I Saw You,” the 1969 A&M single “You Came, You Saw, You Conquered,” and a few tracks that went unreleased at the time of their recording. The latter includes a terrific pair (“Paradise” and “Here I Sit”) co-written by a young Harry Nilsson, and previously released on The Phil Spector Masters. This collection duplicates the track line-up of ABKCO’s out-of-print Best of the Ronettes with one exception: the 1964 B-side “How Does it Feel” is replaced here by the group’s last charting single, 1966’s “I Can Hear Music.” The track ordering is mostly chronological to the songs’ recording dates, and Lenny Kaye offers touchingly personal liner notes alongside detailed recording data. This isn’t the vault discovery that fans are waiting for, and many will complain about the all-mono line-up, but with ABKCO’s set itself a collector’s item, this is a welcome overview of the group’s biggest hits. Now, where are the rarities and stereo mixes? [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

The Crystals: Da Doo Ron Ron – The Very Best of the Crystals

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Fresh mono transfer and remaster of the Crystals’ best

The Crystals formed in 1961 with Barbara Alston as their lead singer. Quickly signed by Phil Spector for his brand new Philles label, they were the subject of the label’s very first single, first hit and first Top 20, “(There’s No Other) Like My Baby.” They struck gold again the following year with the Mann & Weil’s brilliant “Uptown” and reached #1 with Gene Pitney’s “He’s a Rebel.” Oddly, the latter single, the group’s only chart topper, was recorded by a completely different set of Crystals – Darlene Love and the Blossoms – than the one who’d first broken on the charts. The story has the original Crystals touring the East Coast at the moment the demanding Spector was ready to record in Los Angeles, and Love’s group was on hand.

The Love/Blossoms Crystals hit one more time, in 1963 with “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” before the original group regained their name with “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Then He Kissed Me,” and “I Wonder.” Well, sort of. “Da Doo Ron Ron” had been recorded by Darlene Love and the Blossoms, but Spector replaced her lead vocal with one by Lala Brooks, to whom Alston had ceded the lead vocal role in the Crystals’ stage show. The latter two singles also feature Brooks with Love and the Blossoms providing the backing vocals. The East Coast group split with Spector and Philles shortly thereafter, and amid additional personnel changes recorded a few more non-charting singles that failed to capture the thrills and grandeur of their hits.

This disc collects the group’s ten charting singles (which also include “Little Boy” and “All Grown Up”), B-sides, album tracks, the short-lived A-side “There’s No Other Like My Baby” (which was flipped to make “(There’s No Other) Like My Baby” a hit), and the quickly withdrawn “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss).” Two rarities – the hard-swinging unissued-at-the-time “Heartbreaker” and the previously unissued LaLa Brooks-sung “Woman in Love” fill out the disc. This isn’t a complete exposition of the group’s recordings (their early version of “On Broadway” would have been a nice inclusion), and some will complain about the all-mono line-up, but with ABKCO’s Best of the Crystals out of print, it’s great to have the group’s hits and and B-sides available alongside collections for the Ronettes, Darlene Love and Phil Spector. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Various Artists: Wall of Sound – The Very Best of Phil Spector

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Fresh mono transfer and remaster of Spector’s best

In the lull between the primordial spark of ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll and the ‘60s echo brought by the British Invasion, Phil Spector reinvented the pop single. He broke into the music industry in the late ‘50s with his group, The Teddy Bears, and subsequently elevated the stature of “record producer” with his unique Wall of Sound methods. Starting in New York, and eventually decamping to Los Angeles, Spector’s fame eclipsed that of his artists. Though the Ronettes and Crystals got star billing, and the A-list studio players got their historic due as the Wrecking Crew, these singles have collectively become known as “Phil Spector records.” And given Spector’s reclusive lifestyle and his 2009 incarceration, the records are more than ever his public legacy.

This 19-track collection samples the key years, 1961-66, during which Spector produced for his own Philles label. With the Philles catalog now in the licensing hands of Sony Legacy and EMI, the fiftieth anniversary of the label’s 1961 founding is being celebrated with a new round of reissues. Alongside this remastered collection of Spector’s hits are collections for the Ronettes, Crystals and Darlene Love. This set stretches from the Crystals’ and Philles’ first single, 1961’s “There’s No Other (Like My Baby),” through the 1966 release whose chart failure is reported to have broken Spector’s heart, Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.” In between are key sides from the Ronettes, Darlene Love, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, Righteous Brothers and more from the Crystals, gathering together all of the label’s Top 40 singles except for three mid-60s releases by the Righteous Brothers.

This is a great look at the peaks, both commercial and artistic, of Spector’s run at Philles. It’s missing the warm-up act of pre-Philles sides with Ray Peterson, Gene Pitney, Curtis Lee and the Paris Sisters, as well as Spector’s comeback work in the ‘70s and 80s, but as a single disc overview of the Wall of Sound, and given the per-track royalty model for U.S. releases, it’s hard to argue with the choices. To reach deeper into the Phil Spector and Philles catalogs, to hear B-sides, album tracks and the few non-charting Philles singles, seek out the individual artist collections being issued in parallel, dig up a copy of the out-of-print box set Back to Mono, or spring for the imported Phil Spector Masters. This isn’t the vault archaeology that fans seek, and many will complain about the mono line-up (all except “River Deep”), but it is a welcome overview of one of pop music’s greatest auteurs. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]