Thursday, 13 August 2015

"Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich & Jeff Barry Songbook" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2015 Ace Records CD – Duncan Cowell Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...He Smiled At Me And The Music Started Playing..."

Volume 3 of 3 for American Brill Building songwriters ELLIE GREENWICH and JEFF BARRY gives us a wad of Girl Group bubblegum symphonies about explosive kissing and falling headlong for dodgy Leaders of the Pack on unreliable motorbikes.

Volume 1 in the superbly annotated series is called "Doo-Wah-Diddy: Words And Music..." and came out September 2008 on Ace CDHD 1203 - while Volume 2 "Da Do Ron Ron: More From..." on Ace CDCHD 1340 hit the shelves in April 2012. This latest 24-track compilation (2015) stretches from 1963 to 1978 (almost all from the 60's) and includes two tracks recorded in the mid-Sixties but not released until 1976 and 1987. Unfortunately the overall listen is not all sweetness and light. Time to whisper sweet things (and some details) in your ear...

UK released 27 April 2015 (May 2015 in the USA) - "Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich And Jeff Barry Songbook" by Various Artists on Ace Records CDCHD 1434 (Barcode 029667070621) breaks down as follows (66:07 minutes):

1. Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Heart? - BOB B. SOXX & THE BLUE JEANS (USA 7" single on Philles 110, A)
2. He's Got The Power - THE EXCITERS (USA 7" single on United Artists UA 572, A)
3. Friday - JAY & THE AMERICANS (1964 USA 7" single on United Artists UA 693, A)
4. (Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry - DARLENE LOVE (USA 7" single on Philles 111, A)
5. Then He Kissed Me - THE CRYSTALS (1963 USA 7" single on Philles 115, A)
6. Dance Marie - VIC DONNA (1964 USA 7" single on Tiger TI 106, A)
7. Another Boy Like Mine - THE RAINDROPS (1964 USA 7" single on Jubilee 45-5487, A)
8. Little Bell - THE DIXIE CUPS (1964 USA 7" single on Red Bird RB 10-017, A)
9. Whisper Sweet Things - THE JELLY BEANS (a 1964 Red Bird Recording that first appeared on the UK 2LP set "The Red Bird Story Vol.2" in 1987 on Charly CDX 19)
10. Leader Of The Pack  (1964 USA 7" single on Red Bird RB 10-014, A)
11. Gee Baby Gee (1964 USA 7" single on Red Bird RB 10-016, A)
12. What's A Girl Supposed To Do - LESLEY GORE (on the 1965 USA LP "My Town, My Guy & Me" on Mercury SR 61042)
13. Heaven Only Knows - THE SHANGRI-LAS (1965 USA 7" single on Red Bird RB 10-030, A)
14. You Don't Know - ELLIE GREENWICH (1965 USA 7" single on Red Bird RB 10-034, A)
15. Our Love Can Still Be Saved - JEFF BARRY (1965 USA 7" single on Red Bird RB 10-026, A)
16. I'm Nobody's Baby Now - REPARTA & THE DELRONS (1966 USA 7" single on RCA Victor 47-8820, A)
17. I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine - THE RONETTES (a 1966 Philles Recording first issued in 1976 on in the UK on the album "Rare Masters 2" on Phil Spector International 2307 009)
18. Spring Fever - TONY PASS (1966 USA 7" single on Atco 45-6421, A)
19. Honey Do - THE STRANGELOVES (1968 USA 7" single on Sire 4102, A)
20. Am I Grooving You - FREDDIE SCOTT (1967 USA 7" single on Shout 212, A)
21. Sugar, Sugar - WILSON PICKETT (1970 USA 7" single on Atlantic 2722, A)
22. What Good Is Love To You - DUSTY SPRINGFIELD (1971 USA 7" single on Atlantic 2722, A)
23. Be My Baby - ANDY KIM (1970 USA 7" single on Steed 729, A)
24. Baby, Let's Stick Together - THE PALEY BROTHERS (1978 Sire Recording first released in 2013 on the US CD "The Complete Recordings" on Real Gone Music RGM-0182)

The 20-page booklet is jammed with label repro's, album sleeves, publicity photos - the usual superlative presentation from Ace with very upbeat liner notes on each song and artist by noted writer MICK PATRICK. Longstanding Engineer DUNCAN POWELL has done the masters and given the notorious density of the Phil Spector Productions - Cowell does well to give them oomph. The others vary from great to really good.

The music for me is a very mixed bag. Tracks 1 to 17 are pure Girl Group melodrama with classics like "Then he Kissed Me" and "Leader Of The Pack" which still pack a wallop - but after a while subpar crud like "Dance With Me" by Vic Donna and all that silly Sixties angst starts to grate real fast. The upbeat pure Sixties Pop of "Spring Fever" by Tony Pass and "Honey Do" by The Strangeloves are completely at odds with the Girl Group stuff that dominated for 17 tracks before. Then we get the CD's really odd moment (but what a welcome change) - the Funky Soul groove of "Am I Grooving You" by Freddie Scott where he comes on like's just drunk a pink glass of Wilson Pickett DNA. Speaking of Pickett - his cover of the Archie's smash "Sugar Sugar" is saccharine Soul at best (even if it did chart well) and probably not his greatest moment. Worse comes in the shape of Andy Kim's cruddy version of "Be My Baby" and the awful pop of The Paley Brothers ends the disc on a bit of a downer. The Dusty track is lovely though.

Not the greatest CD in Ace's cannon and that's for sure - and for collector's who already own Red Bird stuff and any Phil Spector compilations - a waste of their money. But if you've a penchant for Girl Groups and some Sixties Spector-like melodrama - and given the great sound and presentation - then investigate further...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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