VARIOUS ARTISTS
"Doo Wop -
The R&B Vocal Group Sound - 1950-1960"

Fantastic Voyage FVTD116
Total Playing Time 235.10 minutes        No. of Tracks: 89      Booklet Pages: 24

Disc One: 'Sh-Boom (1950 to 1954)'

Johnny Otis with The Robins and Little Esther - Double Crossing Blues/The Four Buddies - I Will Wait/The Dominoes - Sixty-Minute Man/The Clovers - Don't You Know I Love You/The Five Keys - The Glory Of Love/The Clovers - Fool, Fool Fool/The Dominoes - Have Mercy Baby/The Clovers - One Mint Julep/The 5 Royales - Baby Don't Do It/The Clovers - Ting-A-Ling/The Du-Droppers - I Wanna Know/The 5 Royales - Help Me Somebody/The Clovers - Good Lovin'/The Orioles - Crying In The Chapel/The Coronets - Nadine/The Drifters - Money Honey/Billy Ward & His Dominoes - Rags to Riches/The Spiders - I Didn't Want To Do It/The Drifters - Such A Night/The Clovers - Lovey Dovey/The Crows - Gee/The Royals - Work With Me Annie/The Clovers - Middle Of The Night/The Spaniels Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight/The Drifters - Honey Love/The Chords - Sh-Boom/The Midnighters - Sexy Ways/The Charms - Hearts of Stone/The Moonglows - Sincerely.

 

Disc Two: 'Ling, Ting, Tong (1954 to 1957)'

The Penguins - Earth Angel/The Five Keys - Ling, Ting, Tong/The Cardinals - The Door Is Still Open/The Nutmegs - Story Untold/The Four Fellows - Soldier Boy/The Platters - Only You/The Jacks - Why Don't You Write me/The El Dorados - At My Front Door/The Drifters - Adorable/The Turbans - When You Dance/The Platters - The Great Pretender/The Cadillacs - Speedo/The Clovers - Devil Or Angel/The Teenagers - Why Do Fools Fall In Love/The Teen Queens - Eddie My Love/The Platters - The Magic Touch/Otis Williams & His Charms - Ivory Tower/James Brown & The Famous Flames - Please, Please, Please/Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers - I Want You To Be My Girl/The Platters - My Prayer/The Cadets - Stranded in The Jungle/The Five Satins - In The Still Of The Night/The Platters - Heaven On Earth/The Dells - Oh What A Night/The Heartbeats - A Thousand Miles Away/The Dell-Vikings - Come Go With Me/The Platters - I'm Sorry/Johnnie & Joe - Over the Mountain, Across The Sea/The Coasters - Searchin'.

 

Disc Three: 'Buzz-Buzz-Buzz (1957 to 1960)'

The Coasters - Young Blood/Billy Ward & His Dominos - Stardust/The Bobbettes - Mr. Lee/The Tune Weavers - Happy, Happy Birthday Baby/The Rays - Silhouettes/Thurston Harris - Little Bitty Pretty One/The Hollywood Flames - Buzz-Buzz-Buzz/The Silhouettes - Get A Job/The Chantels - Maybe/Huey (Piano Smith) & The Clowns - Don't You Just Know It/The Monotones - Book Of Love/The Platters - Twilight Time/The Coasters - Yakety Yak/Jerry Butler & The Impressions - For Your Precious Love/The Danleers - One Summer Night/The Olympics - Western Movies/Bobby Day - Rock-In Robin/Little Anthony & The Imperials - Tears On My Pillow/James Brown & The Famous Flames - Try Me/The Platters - Smoke Gets In Your Eyes/The Coasters - Charlie Brown/The Fiestas - So Fine/The Falcons - You're So Fine/The Drifters - There Goes My Baby/The Flamingos - I Only Have Eyes For You/Phil Phillips with The Twilights - Sea Of Love/The Coasters - Poison Ivy/The Drifters - Dance With Me/Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs - Stay/The Drifters - Save The Last Dance For Me/The Miracles - Shop Around.

 

This excellent compilation by vocal group expert Merv Goldberg is, in reality, a potted history of R&B vocal groups in the fifties. It is based upon their commercial appeal as all tracks, with one exception, made the top four of the R&B charts.

The music is of first rate quality, albeit that quite a few of the titles will be familiar to the rock 'n' roll and R&B collectors amongst us. Still a package containing 89 tracks complete with a great booklet and which retails at the lower end price range of a regular single CD has to be great news. Each of the three CDs covers a dedicated time span and the first is devoted to the period 1950 to 1954. The selection shows the dominance of The Clovers and The Drifters in this period. The first mentioned of these two acts shows the way to the emerging rock 'n' roll sound with their versions of 'One Mint Julep', 'Good Lovin', 'Ting-A-Ling' and 'Lovey Dovey' whilst the Drifters, featuring Clyde McPhatter, are close behind with 'Honey Love', 'Such A Night' and 'Money Honey'. From this segment of time, we have The Five Keys with their impassioned hit treatment of 'The Glory Of Love' (a tune which has become a standard and is still being revived to this day) and The Royals/Midnighters with their marvelous 'Work With Me Annie' - the rockin' launch to the 'Annie' series. The song 'Rocket 88' by Jackie Brenston is often credited with being the first rock 'n' roll record but another strong contender is 'Gee' by The Crows which made the R&B charts some eleven months after its release in May 1953. This chirpy mid tempo piece of rockin' music with great harmonies also made the pop charts reaching position 14.

The second disc covers the period 1954 through to 1957 and the rock 'n' roll avalanche becomes readily apparent in this field of music. The classics from the time frame are here in abundance. The spell binding magic of the ballads 'Earth Angel' by The Penguins, 'Story Untold' by The Nutmegs and 'In The Still Of The Night' by Fred Parris & The Five Satins continues to enthrall today. Perhaps not so well known today is 'The Door Is Still Open' by The Cardinals, a group that recorded for Atlantic, but this recording is a piece if listening beauty. Up tempo numbers are also well represented by the likes of 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love' and 'I Want You To Be My Girl by The Teenagers featuring Frankie Lymon, the immortal 'Speedo' by The Cadillacs and The Dell Vikings with their immortal 'Come Go With Me'. This was also the time when The Platters, the biggest selling vocal group of that decade broke through. They are well represented on this release with the inclusion of such as 'My Prayer', 'I'm Sorry', 'Heaven On Earth' and 'The Great Pretender' - spell binding music and ideal for a spot of bum grabbing dancing.

The final disc overviews the period 1957 to 1960 and the selections included are a cornucopia of rockin' delights. Here we have The Coasters continuing their hit parade dominance with 'Young Blood', 'Yakety Yak' and 'Poison Ivy' whilst The Silhouettes reached number one R&B with Get A Job' a piece of classic rockin' music that has a great jiving tempo. For ballads, it is hard to beat the searing vocal intensity of 'For Your Precious Love' by Jerry Butler and The Impressions' or 'Tears On MY Pillow' by Little Anthony & The Imperials. One particular personal favourite is 'Western Moves' and the marvelous harsh lead vocals of Walter Ward. This is a salute to the television western series of the day and rocks along nicely. I recall this disc being played on the 'Six-Five Special' TV show and when it finished, the dancers stood and applauded the record. The original version of 'Rock-in' Robin' by the late great Bobby Day is included. For myself, it is pure rock 'n' roll but this music had swept all before it and it also reached number one on the R&B charts. Bobby also had the original version of 'Little Bitty Pretty One' but included on this set is the big hit cover version by Thurston Harris. The disc closes out with indications of the music to come with the illustrious 'Stay' by Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs, 'Save The Last Dance For Me' by The Drifters and the record that launched the Tamla Motown on the road to commercial success, namely 'Shop Around' by The Miracles.

There you have it, nearly four hours of music that, in its various shades, really excites.

Tony Wilkinson
September 2011