Tuesday, 16 August 2016

"Street Corner Symphonies Volume 5: 1953" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2012 Bear Family CD - Marcus Heumann Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"…Crying In The Chapel…"

Hot on the heels of their definitive "Blowing The Fuse" and "Sweet Soul Music" CD Series (15 volumes to each genre of R'n'B and Soul) comes their Vocal Group attack - 15 discs spanning 1939 to 1963. Volumes 1 to 10 hit the shops in 2012 in clumps of five (May and October) and the last five in the spring of 2013. And while critics will argue that Vocal Group music has already been done to death by Rhino (3 x 4CD Box Sets across the decades) and a mountain of other cheapo labels taking advantage of the 50-year copyright law - this is the first time someone reputable (other than Rhino) have had a go - and typically these Bear Family CDs are gorgeous in all the right places - presentation and audio. Here are the boys Crying In The Chapel...

Released May 2012 in Germany - "Street Corner Symphonies Volume 5: 1953" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Bear Family BCD 17283 AR (Barcode 4000127172839) breaks down as follows (87:52 minutes):

1. Money Honey - CLYDE McPHATTER & THE DRIFTERS (Atlantic 45-1006, A)
2. Crying In The Chapel - THE ORIOLES (Jubilee 45-5122, A)
3. Baby, It's You - THE SPANIELS (Chance 1141, A)
4. White Cliffs Of Dover - THE CHECKERS (King 4675, A)
5. Baby Please - THE MOONGLOWS with the Red Holloway Orchestra (Chance CH-1147, A)
6. Is It A Dream - THE VOCALEERS (Red Robin 114, A)
7. Gee - THE CROWS (Rama 5, A)
8. Nadine - THE CORONETS (Chess 1549, A)
9. You're Mine - THE CRICKETS (MGM 11428, A) [Not Buddy Holly's group]
10. Too Much Lovin' (Much Too Much) - THE "5" ROYALES with CHARLIE "LITTLE JAZZ" FERGUSON & His Orchestra (Apollo 448, A)
11. A Sunday Kind Of Love - THE HARP-TONES featuring Willie Winfield (Bruce 101, A)
12. Golden Teardrops - THE FLAMINGOS with Red Holloway's Orchestra (Chance CH-1145, A)
13. Good Lovin' - CLOVERS (Atlantic 45-1000, A)
14. (Now And Then There's) A Fool Such As I - THE ROBINS (RCA Victor 47-5175, A)
15. My Girl Awaits Me - THE CASTELLES (Grand 101, A)
16. Marie - THE FOUR TUNES with Sid Bass Orchestra (Jubilee 5128, A)
17. These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You - BILLY WARD & HIS DOMINOES (Federal 12129, A)
18. We Could Find Happiness - THE WANDERERS (Savoy 1109, A)
19. I Wanna Know - THE DU DROPPERS (RCA Victor 47-5229, A)
20. Dear Ruth - THE BUCCANEERS with The Joe Whelan Trio (Southern 101, A)
21. Just Walkin' In The Rain - THE PRISONAIRES (Sun 186, A)
22. Get It - THE ROYALS (Federal 12133, A)
23. Lovie Darling - THE CARDINALS (Atlantic 45-995, B-side of "You Are My Only Love")
24. I Had A Love - THE FLAIRS (Flair 1012, A)
25. My Saddest Hour - THE FIVE KEYS (Aladdin 3214, A)
26. Hey Now - TONY WILLIAMS and THE PLATTERS (Federal 12153, B-side of "Give Thanks")
27. I - THE VELVETS (Red Robin 122, A)
28. Baby, Come Back To Me - THE FIVE ECHOES with Fat Cole's Band (Sabre SA-102, A)
29. Nobody's Lovin' Me - THE SWALLOWS (King 4632, A)
30. Big Leg Mama - VANN WALLS and THE ROCKETS (Atlantic 45-988, A)
31. I Can't Believe - THE HORNETS (States S-127, A)
32. You're The One - THE SPIDERS (Imperial 5265, B-side of "I Didn't Want To Do It")

The 84-page non-detachable booklet is a feast of indepth liner notes on each release by Grammy-winning writer and lifelong fan BILL DAHL. Let's put it this way - there's a 'Photo Captions' index on Page 83 that tells who's who in the black and white publicity shots that accompany most (not all) of the photos. It actually lists the singer's names  - who else but Bear would do this? There are cool trade adverts from 1953 peppering the text and some of those rare American 45 labels are even pictured in colour (Atlantic, Baton, Mercury and Robin). The CD repros the "Good Lovin’" 45 on Atlantic by The Clovers and the spine eventually makes up a single photograph when you line up all 15 volumes alongside each other on a shelf. Long-standing and trusted names like Walter DeVenne and Billy Vera have been involved and MARCUS HEUMANN did the superb mastering. The sources (as you can imagine) differ wildly but the sound quality to my ears is improved on anything I've heard before. Some of these cuts are amazing in their clarity (Atlantic tracks especially).

What a difference a year makes - 1953 Vocal Group 7" singles are incredibly hard to find hence the rarities quotient goes through the roof - check out these prices: The Hornets $8000.00, The Buccaneers $4000.00, The Castelles $2000, The Flamingos $1000 (black vinyl), $3000 (red vinyl), The Five Echoes $600 (black vinyl), $1500.00 (red vinyl), The Spaniels $500.00 (black vinyl), $2000.00 (red vinyl), The Moonglows $1000 (black vinyl) and $3000 (red vinyl). Or you can buy The Swallows, The Checkers, The Wanderers and The Prisonaires for a paltry $500.00 each with The Flairs, The Crows, The Five Keys and The Platters putting you back a bargain-basement $400.00 a pop (and so on down The Orioles at a frankly piddly $80.00).

When you get past the big guns you've heard too often like "Crying In The Chapel" and "Gee" - you get the lesser-heard gems like the rare "I" by The Velvets and the gorgeous "You're Mine" by The Crickets (Not Buddy Holly's backing group) - as pure Vocal Group as you can get. "Nadine" (not the Chuck Berry classic) is another slow moody rarity from The Coronets (on Chess). I love the lead vocalist in The Vocaleers "Is It A Dream" - an unusual almost childish ache in his phrasing - so good. And there can't be too many fans who don't have a big place in their hearts for The Harp-Tones and the silky "A Sunday Kind Of Love". The Spaniels and the bluesy Swallows are clever compiler choices too. There’s crackle on the uber-rare “My Girl Awaits Me” by The Castelles for sure but the audio quality on The Robins version of “A Fool Such As I” is utterly stupendous – Bobby Nunn and Grady Chapman sharing the crystal clear audio glories.

Rhythm 'n' Blues boppers pop up more than once - the "my love is yours" saxophone and talking "Get It" by The Royals (the lead singer sounding like Clyde McPhatter) while The Cardinals on Atlantic is that halfway-house mix of R'n'B and Vocal Group. Speaking of great lead vocals "I Wanna Know" by The Du Droppers has our hero pleading, "I wanna know what you do round there?" (not likely to get an answer mate). The Four Tunes go full-on Jackie Wilson "Reet Petite" (complete with warbling vocals) on the fab "Marie" - a great bopping dancer while "Money Honey" by Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters is always worth re-hearing especially in this fabulous sound quality.

Niggles - they're too expensive as singles discs and perhaps they should have been doubles because real collectors will have large swathes of this already. Bear will argue 'but not in this sound quality or presentation' - and they'd have a point. Having said all of that - what is actually on here is fabulous stuff and given to us with love and affection by a company that cares about voices that would be forgotten without them...

"...You keep on loving somebody...while nobody's loving me..." The Swallows croon on King 4632. Give this superb compilation a go and you may find yourself loving it so much - the others in the set will join it in a jiffy...

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