Saturday, 20 August 2016

"Street Corner Symphonies Volume 10: 1958" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2012 Bear Family CD – Marcus Heumann Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…I Want To Have You Near...But You're So Far Away..."

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 Bear Family’s Vocal Group attack - 15 discs spanning 1939 to 1963. Volumes 1 to 10 hit the shops in 2012 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 German-issued Bear Family CDs are gorgeous in all the right places - presentation and audio. And like its Volume 9 predecessor – Volume 10 has a huge 34 tracks and a format-busting playing time of 87:38 minutes! Let's march (not walk) 'Down The Aisle Of Love'...and have a 'Rama Lama Ding Dong' (if you know what I mean)...

Released October 2012 in Germany - "Street Corner Symphonies Volume 10: 1958" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Bear Family BCD 17288 AR (Barcode 4000127172884) breaks down as follows (I've provided American single catalogue numbers on all tracks - 87:38 minutes):

1. 16 Candles – THE CRESTS (Coed 506, A)
2. Lama Rama Ding Dong (aka Rama Lama Ding Dong) – THE EDSELS (Dub 2843, A)
3. For Your Precious Love – JERRY BUTLER and THE IMPRESSIONS (Vee-Jay 280/Falcon 1013/Abner 1013, A)
4. I Wonder Why – DION & THE BELMONTS (Laurie 3013, A)
5. Tears On My Pillow – LITTLE ANTHONY & THE IMPERIALS (End 1027, A)
6. So Fine – THE FIESTAS (Old Town 1062, A)
7. One Summer Night – THE DANLEERS (Amp 3 2115/Mercury 71322, A)
8. Stormy Weather – THE SPANIELS (Vee-Jay 290, A)
9. I Love You So – THE CHANTELS (End 1020, A)
10. Trickle, Trickle – THE VIDEOS (Casino 102, A)
11. This Is The Nite – THE VALIANTS (Keen 34044, A)
12. Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart – THE COASTERS (Atco 6116, A)
13. Drip Drop – THE DRIFTERS (Atlantic 1187, A)
14. Ten Commandments Of Love – HARVEY and THE MOONGLOWS (chess 1705, A)
15. Little Star – THE ELEGANTS (Apt 25005, A)
16. Pretty Girls Everywhere – EUGENE CHURCH and THE FELLOWS (Class 235, A)
17. You Cheated – THE SHIELDS (Tender 513/Dot 15805, A)
18. Western Movies – THE OLYMPICS (Demon 1508, A)
19. Try Me (I Need You) – JAMES BROWN and THE FAMOUS FLAMES (Federal 12337, A)
20. There's A Moon Out Tonight – THE CAPRIS (Planet 1010/Old Town 1094, A)
21. Lovers Never Say Goodbye – THE FLAMINGOS (End 1035, A)
22. No, No, No – THE CHANTERS (DeLuxe 6177, A)
23. So Far Away – THE PASTELS (Argo 5314, A)
24. Heart's Desire – THE AVALONS (Unart 2007, A)
25. Down The Aisle Of Love – THE QUIN-TONES (Red Top 108/Hunt 321, A)
26. Since I Don't Have You – THE SKYLINERS (Calico 103, A)
27. Try The Impossible – LEE ANDREWS and THE HEARTS with The Panco Villa Orchestra (United Artists 123, A)
28. I'm So Young – THE STUDENTS (Arranged and Conducted by Jimmy Coe) (Note 10012/Checker 902, A)
29. Here I Stand – WADE FLEMONS and THE NEWCOMERS (Vee-Jay 295, A)
30. Teardrops On Your Letter – HANK BALLARD and THE MIDNIGHTERS (King 5171, A)
31. Zoom Zoom Zoom – THE COLLEGIANS (Winley 224, A)
32. The Things I Love – THE FIDELITY’S (Baton 252, A)
33. I Met Him On A Sunday (Ronde-Ronde) – THE SHIRELLES (Tiara 6112/Decca 30588, A)
34. Oh Gee, Oh Gosh – THE KODOKS featuring Pearl McKinnon (Fury 1015, A)

The 82-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 81 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 a few cool trade adverts from 1958 peppering the text (The Collegians on Winley and The Students on Checker) and three of those rare American 45 labels are pictured (Casino, Keen and Checker). The CD repros the rare "One Summer Night" by The Danleers and the spine makes up a single photograph of the series name when you line up all 15 volumes alongside each other on a shelf. Long-standing and trusted names like Walter DeVenne, Nico Feuerbach, Victor Pearlin and Billy Vera have been involved in the research while Audio Engineer MARCUS HEUMANN did the superb mastering. The sources (as you can imagine) differ wildly but to my ears the sound quality is improved on everything that I've heard before (including some of the Rhino box sets). The audio and presentation are top-class here (a norm for Bear Family)...

1958 continued on from 1957 in being a pivotal year in Vocal Group history - hitting something of a pinnacle – beautiful ballads and cracking dancers combining to make this CD a wonderful overall listen (and all of it in top audio quality). In fact if I was pushed – and in terms of sheer vocal beauty/fun - I would say that both Volume 9 for 1957 and this Volume 10 set for 1958 are the compilation jewels in the crown for the entire "Street Corner Symphonies" run of 15 titles.

We open with blushing teenage romance - the gorgeous "16 Candles" by The Crests where Lead Singer Johnny Maestro croons his way into millions of American hearts (real name John Mastrangelo). The first bopper "Lama Rama Ding Dong" by The Edsels has great audio – very clean. We then enter the realms of musical magnificence and genre history – the Soulful vocals of Jerry Butler and The Impressions doing the immortal "For Your Precious Love" where the song blurs the lines between Vocal Group Music and early Soul – what a tune and its still moving to. Another reviewer is claiming that this is a wrong version to the May 1958 take on Vee-Jay - but I can't hear a difference between this and the Rhino box set inclusion (which is the 1958 Mono original). Maybe the initial mistake has been spotted and its been replaced? Back to fun with the brilliant "I Wonder Why" by Dion & The Belmonts – a fabulous slice of New York Street Corner bopping magic. Smooch-city returns with everyone's favourite balladeer – Little Anthony – telling us that " is not a is not a toy..." in the American Graffiti atmospheric "Tears On My Pillow". There is a tender sweetness to "So Fine" by The Fiestas – an Old Town classic that sounds gorgeous here. Romance returns with "One Summer Night" by The Danleers – the kind of tune where you can just see the cars cruising the strip as the boys look out longingly at the girls they can’t reach.

While the Chantels is good - genuine magic hits your lugs with the impossibly rare "Trickle, Trickle" by The Videos who contained future members of Shep & The Limelites. It’s more bopping R 'n' B than Vocal Group but what a winner it is (the rare Casino 102 American 45 is reproduced on Page 26 of the booklet – the song was covered and charted by Manhattan Transfer in 1980). Genius inclusion and wicked unknown vocalists ahoy with "This Is The Nite" by The Valiants - where Lead Singer Billy Jones (aka Billy Spicer) does his best Clyde McPhatter impression and more than pulls it off (fabulous stuff). The audio leaps forward with "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart" by The Coasters – it features two superb Leads – the deep as an ocean Bass of Will 'Dub' Jones (formerly with The Cadets and The Jacks) and Lean Tenor Cornel Gunter (ex The Flairs). It's craftily followed by a tune every Drifters fan adores – "Drip Drop" - bopping R 'n' B sung by Bobby Kendricks – a dead ringer for Clyde McPhatter's vocal style.

Romance returns in different paces – the sombre talking lurch of "Ten Commandments Of Love" by Harvey and The Moonglows and the very Dion & The Belmont sounding "Little Star" by The Elegants. After all that pleading it's time for fun as Eugene Church tells us that no matter where he looks (roads, beaches or parks) there's "Pretty Girls Everywhere" (I feel for the poor guy). Beautiful and rare – "You Cheated" by The Shields features Frankie Ervin on Lead Vocals and is a gem on this CD collectors will love having. The witty and catchy "Western Movies" by The Olympics sung by Walter Ward and resplendent with gunshots and Wild West references sounds like a Lieber/Stoller classic but was written by two lesser-known talents - Fred Smith and Cliff Goldsmith. It was a smash in June 1958 and has turned up on compilations ever since. We don't normally associate James Brown with the genre but his "Try Me" pleading vocal and the song's roots in Vocal Group classics warrants a tasty inclusion here. A duo of classics follow – "There's A Moon Out Tonight" by The Capris and the truly beautiful Flamingos End label gem "Lovers Never Say Goodbye" - dripping with atmosphere and romance, both are beloved by collectors.

Time to pick up the pace with a bopper "No, No, No" - where a very young sounding sets of lads The Chanters don’t want to be "kissed anymore" by girls but then say "yes, yes, yes" immediately after their denial (the poor dears are confused). Genius inclusion comes with the gobsmacking beauty of "So Far Away" by The Pastels where Lead Vocalist Di Fosco Ervin, Jr. combines his pleading with a wonderful almost operatic set of female backing vocalists. The result is this October 1958 masterpiece on Argo 5314 – the kind of massively evocative song that would stop you in your tracks if it sailed out of a radio. More smoochers are provided by Hank Ballard, The Fidelity’s and the lesser-known Wade Flemons - with the whole shebang ending on a bopper – the innocent sounding "Oh Gee, Oh Gosh" where cute Pearl McKinnon sounds not unlike Frankie Lymon backed by a rocking Teenagers. To sum up – I have to say playing this compilation has been a joy. Evocative, moving and damn it – fun.

Niggles - they're too expensive as singles discs and perhaps they should have been doubles because real collectors will have more than a few titles on offer here. Bear Family will argue 'but not in this sound quality or presentation' - and they'd have a point.

Presented to us with love and affection by a company that cares about forgotten voices that shouldn’t be forgotten. What a sweetheart of a compilation and another gold standard from Bear...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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