Saturday, 3 October 2015

"The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 3" by VARIOUS (1994 Ace Records CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...Girl In My Dreams..."

In the liner notes for Volume 3 of this wonderfully evocative CD reissue series ("The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll") – the collector-friendly British label Ace Records states - "...thanks for assistance in locating the finest master tapes to..." – and go on to list a slew of great names in reissue like Walter De Venne and John Beecher to name but a few. After years of needle-drops by other less scrupulous reissue companies – the audio quality on this third CD volume is right up there and 21 years after its initial release still remains on catalogue...

The third instalment follows the same route as Volumes 1 and 2 – 30 cleverly sequenced Mono US 7" singles (only "Sacred" by The Castells is in Stereo) – a nice mixture of the obvious with the obscure/rare (three US numbers 1s while only 6 of these 30 American releases charted in the UK) – and all presented to fans by a record company that knows and cares and has a reputation to maintain. The full 18 volumes in Ace's "The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll" CD Series to 2015 are listed below. So once more into the details for those 'All American Boys'...

UK and USA released January 1994 - "The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 3: Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Ace Records CDCHD 497 (Barcode 029667149723) is a 30-track CD and breaks down as follows (75:42 minutes):

1. The All American Boy – BILL PARSONS
December 1958 US 7" single on Fraternity 835 (peaked at 2)
February 1959 UK 7" single on London HL 8798 (peaked at 22)
Bill Parsons is a pseudonym for Bobby Bare who later had his own US TV show in the 80s – the song is famously about Elvis Presley

2. Kansas City – WILBERT HARRISON
April 1959 USA 7” single on Fury 1023 (peaked at 1 on both Pop & R&B)
May 1959 UK 7" single on Top Rank JAR 132 (didn’t chart)
Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller – first recorded by Little Willie Littlefield in 1952 on Federal 12110 – the Wilbert Harrison version sold over a million copies and has been covered extensively ever since

3. My True Love – JACK SCOTT
June 1958 US 7" single on Carlton 462 (peaked at 3)
July 1958 UK 7" single on London HLU 8626 (peaked at 9)
Its B-side "Leroy" also charted in June 1958 peaking at No. 11. The A-side "My True Love" peaked in July 1958 and sold a million copies

4. Jennie Lee – JAN & ARNIE
May 1958 US 7" single on Arwin 108 (peaked at 8)
June 1958 UK 7" single on London HL 8653 (didn’t chart)
Jan Berry and Arnie Ginsberg – the group also included Dean Torrence who would later become JAN & DEAN

5. The Joker (That's What They Call Me) – BILLY MYLES
November 1957 US 7" single on Ember 1026 (peaked at 25)
December 1957 UK 7" single on HMV Records POP 423 (didn’t chart)

6. The Beat – THE ROCKIN' R's
March 1959 USA 7" single on Tempus TR-7541 (peaked at 57)
May 1959 UK 7" single on London HL 8872 (didn't chart)
An instrumental originally issued as Tempus 7541 in mid 1958, repressed as TR-7541 in March 1959 when it charted for the first time

7. To Know Him, Is To Love Him – THE TEDDY BEARS
September 1958 USA 7" single on Dore 503 (peaked at 1)
October 1958 UK 7" single on London HLUN 8733 (peaked at 2)
Written and Produced by PHIL SPECTOR – the record went on to sell two and half million copies – Lead Vocals by Annette Kleinbard (aka Carol Connors) and Drums by Sandy Nelson

8. When You Dance – THE TURBANS
November 1955 USA 7" single on Herald 458 (peaked at 3)
Not released in the UK

9. Love Letters – KETTY LESTER
March 1962 USA 7" single on Era 3068 (peaked at 5)
March 1962 UK 7” single on London HLN 9527 (peaked at 4)
Written in 1945 for a movie by the same name - "Love Letters" was originally a hit for Dick Haymes in September 1945 on Decca 18699 (peaked at 11)

10. So Tough – THE KUF-LINX
February 1958 USA 7" single on Challenge 1013 (peaked at 76)
March 1958 UK 7" single on London HLU 8583 (didn’t chart)
The five sessionmen who played on this 45 – only weeks later recorded "Tequila" as The Champs and had a huge hit Stateside – becoming the first Instrumental Number 1

11. To The Aisle – THE FIVE SATINS
August 1957 USA 7" single on Ember 1019 (peaked at 25)
October 1957 UK 7" single on London HL 8501 (didn't chart)
Their first Vocal Group hit "In The Still Of The Nite" is Track 20 on Volume 2

12. Le Dee Dah – BILLY & LILLIE
January 1958 USA 7" single on Swan 4002 (peaked at 9)
February 1958 UK 7" single on London HLU 8564 (didn’t chart)
New Yorkers Billy Ford and Lillie Bryant

13. Endless Sleep – JODY REYNOLDS
May 1958 USA 7" single on Demon 1507 (peaked at 5)
June 1958 UK 7" single on London HL 8651 (didn't chart)
Session Guitar Play Al Casey plays on the song – Jody Reynolds is a Male Rockabilly singer and on the back of the Rock 'n' Roll Revival in the late 70ts in the UK - a reissue of the song belated charted in April 1979 on Lightning LIG 9015 at No. 66

14. Chicken, Baby, Chicken – TONY HARRIS
June 1957 USA 7" single on Ebb 104 (peaked at 89)
Not released in the UK

15. Lover’s Island – THE BLUE JAYS
August 1961 USA 7" single on Milestone 2008 (peaked at 31)
Not released in the UK
Californian R&B Vocal Group

16. No Chemise, Please – GERRY GRANAHAN
June 1958 USA 7" single on Sunbeam 102 (peaked at 23)
August 1958 UK 7" single on London HL 8668 (didn’t chart)
Gerry Granahan is the real name for 'Dicky Doo' of The White New Jersey Vocal Group 'Dicky Doo & The Don'ts' who had a hit with "Click Clack" on Swan 4001 in February 1958 (peaked at 28 – see track 30). He also formed The Fireflies who has a further hit with "You Were Mine" in September 1959 on Ribbon 6901 (peaked at 21)

17. It Was I – SKIP & FLIP
July 1959 USA 7" single on Brent 7002 (peaked at 11)
July 1959 UK 7" single on Top Rank JAR 156 (didn't chart)
Gary "Flip" Paxton and Clyde "Skip" Battin. Gary "Flip" Paxton later formed The Hollywood Argyles (see Volume 2, Track 29, "Alley Oop") and started the Garpax label (see my review for "Keep A Hold On Him: More Garpax Girls"). "Skip" Battin was an original member of The Byrds, New Riders Of The Purple Sage and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Their second hit as Skip & Flip was "Cherry Pie" – Track 22 on Volume 1

18. Tonight I Fell In Love – THE TOKENS
April 1961 USA 7" single on Warwick 615 (peaked at 15)
June 1961 UK 7" single on Parlophone R 4790 (didn't chart)
The Tokens featured brothers Phil and Mitch Margo and Jay Siegel who later formed CROSS COUNTRY who had one self-titled album on Atco in 1973. They charted a cover version of Wilson Pickett's "In The Midnight Hour" in September 1973 on Atco 6934. The 2nd hit for The Tokens in November 1961 was "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" – a Number 1.

19. Happy Birthday Blues – KATHY YOUNG with THE INNOCENTS
February 1961 USA 7" single on Indigo 115 (peaked at 30)
April 1961 UK 7" single on Top Rank JAR 554 (didn’t chart)
Their 2nd hit from October 1960 called "A Thousand Stars" is Track 8 on Volume 1

20. Rockin' Little Angel – RAY SMITH
January 1960 USA 7" single on Judd 1016 (peaked at 22)
February 1960 UK 7" single on London HL 9051 (didn't chart)
The melody is adapted from an 1844 cowboy song called "Buffalo Gals"

21. Tonite, Tonite – MELLO-KINGS
May 1957 USA 7” single on Herald H-502 (peaked at 77)
Not released in the UK

22. Cha-Hua-Hua – THE PETS
May 1958 USA 7" single on Arwin 109 (peaked at 34)
June 1958 UK 7" single on London HL 8652 (didn’t chart)
A novelty instrumental featured Plas Johnson on Saxophone and Earl Palmer on Drums

23. Western Movies – THE OLYMPICS
July 1958 USA 7" single on Demon 1508 (peaked at 8)
September 1958 UK 7" single on HMV Records POP 528 (peaked at 12)

24. The Girl In My Dreams – THE CLIQUES
April 1956 USA 7" single on Modern 987 (peaked at 45)
Not released in the UK
Featured Eugene Church who had solo hits on Specialty, Class and King Records and Jesse Belvin who wrote "Earth Angel" for The Penguins (Track 10 on Volume 1) and many other hits

25. Sugar Shack – JIMMY GILMER & THE FIREBALLS
September 1963 USA 7" single on Dot 16487 (peaked at 1)
October 1963 UK 7" single on London HLD 9789 (peaked at 45)
Co-written by Keith McCormack of The String-A-Longs who has two hits in 1961 on Warwick and a lady writer called Faye Voss. Norman Petty of Buddy Holly Fame overdubbed a repeated organ refrain onto the track that he later claimed 'made' the song a million-seller.

26. There Is Something On Your Mind – BIG JAY McNEELY & BAND
April 1959 USA 7" single on Swingin’ 614 (peaked at 44)
August 1959 UK 7" single on Top Rank JAR 169 (didn't chart)

27. Woman Is A Man’s Best Friend – TEDDY & THE TWILIGHTS
March 1962 USA 7" single on Swan 4102 (peaked at 59)
Not released in the UK

28. Sacred – THE CASTELLS
June 1961 USA 7" single on Era 3048 (peaked at 20)
July 1961 UK 7" single on London HLN 9392 (didn’t chart)
California Vocal Group - Chuck Girard of The Castells later joined and sang on The Hondells hit "Little Honda" on Mercury 72324 in 1964

29. The Freeze – TONY & JOE
July 1958 USA 7” single on Era 1075 (peaked at 33)
September 1958 UK 7” single on London HLN 8694 (didn’t chart)
Rock & Roll Vocal Duo - Tony Savonne and Joe Saraceno

30. Click-Clack – DICKY DOO & THE DON’TS
February 1958 USA 7” single on Swan 4001 (peaked at 28 Pop and 8 R&B)
March 1958 UK 7” single on London HLU 8589 (didn’t chart)
Dicky Doo is Gerry Granahan – see Track 16 above for his solo single "No Chemise, Please"

NOTES: all tracks are in MONO except "Sacred" by The Castells (Track 28) - which is in STEREO

The first two volumes featured only 12-pages in each booklet (written by ROB FINNIS) that were indepth but felt just a tad slight for such a prestigious line. So for Volume 3 the British label pushed it to 16-pages and spruced up the presentation - the results are fab. You get quality publicity photos of forgotten names like Billie & Lillie, The Turbans and Ketty Lester alongside rare Trade Adverts for Big Jay McNeely, Billy Myles and Ray Smith (and so on). In between all this are tightly packed factoids collectors hoover up - Finnis connecting all the musical and historical dots. On the rear page of the booklet there is a colour collage of all those gorgeous British 45s in their funky Top Rank, London (Tri-Centres), HMV and Parlophone label bags. Finnis has also sequenced the disc and it plays like an old jukebox – and as you can see above – the playing time is more than generous. Mistakes – The Turbans are credited as charting at 33 when it was 3 and The Twilights (of Teddy & The Twilights) is misspelt - other than that – this is exemplary stuff.

The DUNCAN COWELL Remasters are what makes collectors itch with pleasure - blindingly good Audio quality on rarities like the boppin' cool of "So Tough" by the delightfully named Kuf Linx - popular R&B dancers like the 'squeeze her with all your might' of "When You Dance" by The Turbans – or real warmth on pleading Vocal Group turns like "Happy Birthday Blues" by Kathy Young and The Innocents. Ace explains that lip-smacking in front of microphones can sound like clicks – as if its been dubbed from discs – but they assure us that these transfers are about 'real tapes' aimed at collectors who want the best and I have to say they've done an impressive job – especially given the wild and varying nature of each recording.

Volume 3 opens with Bobby Bare cheekily masquerading as Bill Parsons singing about that most 'American' of all boys – Elvis Presley (the tenuous Elvis connection even propelled the record to 22 in the UK). It's followed by a much-covered winner – Wilbert Harrison's fantastic R&B shuffler "Kansas City" – the kind of song that makes grown men quiver in their Zimmer-frames. Both Jack Scott and Jan & Arnie tackle the swooning Vocal group thing in different ways – Scott goes crooner on the sappy "My True Love" without really sounding convincing while the drum-bop and "ba ba ba" rapid vocals of "Jennie Lee" by Jan & Arnie (soon to become Jan & Dean) gives the tune a homemade infectious effect (great little dancer). Melodrama comes at us with a fabulous-sounding "The Joker" where Billy Myles assures us he's crying all the time despite his comic-book grin. Smoochers include boy meets a girl and each step draws him closer "To The Aisle" by The Five Satins, the never grows old passion of "Lover's Island" by The Blue Jays and the thrill of your embrace in "Tonite, Tonite" by the very Mello-Kings – all in best ever Audio Quality despite the crudeness of their humble beginnings.

As I said of Volume 1 – what’s great about these Ace compilations is the oddities – a fabulous guitar-driven-beat underpins the wicked Rock 'n' Roll instrumental "The Beat" by The Rockin' R's (drums sound awesome) - while good old team-player Phil Spector starts his global domination with The Teddy Bears and their sweet-as-mom's-apple-pie "To Know Him, Is To Love Him". The girl's clothing song "No Chemise, Please" by Gerry Granahan (Dicky Doo in the Don'ts) is the kind of novelty hit The Clovers and The Coasters would have eaten up. Before The Tokens inflicted the awful "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" on an unsuspecting world in 1962 – they had a hit in 1961 with the altogether better "Tonight I Fell In Love". I could probably live without the neither-here-nor-there instrumental chugga-bugga of "Cha-Hua-Hua" by The Pets (maybe someone in Mad Men could use it) - but I've always been partial to The Coasters shoot-em-up fun of "Western Movies" by The Olympics.

But genius choices for this Volume has to go to the fabulous Johnny Cash "Love God Murder" eerie death vibe of "Endless Sleep" by Rockabilly star Jody Reynolds (Nice Cave will be pleased) and the utterly infectious "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs – a tune guaranteed to make you do the neck jerk and embarrass yourself in some hip inner city party. I also dig the 'Rock 'n' Roll is all I crave' of "Chicken, Baby, Chicken" by the rasping Tony Harris – the kind of poultry tune I shouldn't really fall for but have. Properly great boogie Rock 'n' Roll comes in the shape of "Rockin' Little Angel" where Ray Smith sounds uncannily like Elvis in his phrasing and lip-snarling approach. We return to common sense with "Woman Is A Man's Best Friend" where Teddy & The Twilight bop their way to their inner girly - while church bells toll for The Castells in their string-laden swoon-fest "Sacred". Another forgotten winner is the 'saxophone will blow it' stop and start motions of "The Freeze" by Tony & Joe – a Frat Party shake-your-tail-feather shimmy-shammy if ever there was one. And it all ends on "Click Clack" where Dicky Doo is trying to work out why he ever left his girl (probably something to do with the one-way ticket he bought). What a blast...

Both Volumes 2 and 3 feel like a huge improvement over Volume 1 (which is a wee gem anyway). Volume 3 is adventurous, massively evocative of the period and cleverly paced too. But most important of all – it’s blindingly great fun to listen to - stirring up so many fond memories (even if you weren't there - you will feel all "American Graffiti" after a night in with this CD compilation).

But most of all you get a real sense of why UK fans in the 50ts and 60ts looked to the USA with such awe. The Yanks had it all – the cool - the cars - the girls - the film stars and best of all - the music. And there are seventeen more volumes where that came from...

PS: Titles in "The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll" CD Series are:

1. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll: Hard-To-Get Hot 100 Hits From 1954-63 (Ace CDCHD 289, November 1991)
2. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 2: Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963 (Ace CDCHD 445, March 1993)
3. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 3: Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963 (Ace CDCHD 497, January 1994)
4. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 4: Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963 (Ace CDCHD 500, October 1994)
5. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 5: Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963 (Ace CDCHD 600, October 1995)
6. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 6: 30 Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963 (Ace CDCHD 650, January 1997)
7. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 7: Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963 (Ace CDCHD 700, November 1998)
8. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 8: Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963 (Ace CDCHD 750, November 1999)
9. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 9: Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963 (Ace CDCHD 800, February 2001)
10. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 10: Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963 (Ace CDCHD 850, September 2002)
11. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 11: Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963 (Ace CDCHD 1200, September 2007)
12. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll Volume 12: 30 Hot 100 Hits From 1954-1963 (Ace CDCHD 1280, February 2011)

13. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll: Special Country Edition (Ace CDCHD 845, April 2002)
14. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll: Special Novelty Edition (Ace CDCHD 890, November 2003)
15. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll: Special Doo W*p Edition 1953-1963 (Ace CDCHD 1000, May 2004)
16. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll: Special "Bubbling Under" Edition – Regional Hits That Just Missed The Hot 100 1959-1963 (Ace CDCHD 1050, March 2006)
17. The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll – The Follow-Up Hits: Hard-To-Get Hot 100 Hits (Ace CDCHD 1190, January 2008)
18.  The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll: Special Doo W*p Edition Volume 2 1956-1963 (Ace CDCHD 1230, May 2009)

PS: this review is dedicated to Charles Fizer of The Olympics who was killed in Race Riots in August 1965 aged only 25...

This review and hundreds more like it can be found in my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series - BLUES, GOSPEL, RHYTHM 'n' BLUES and ROCK 'n' ROLL - Exceptional CD Remasters is available to buy/download at Amazon at the following link...

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