Wednesday, 17 August 2016

"Street Corner Symphonies Volume 6: 1954" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2012 Bear Family CD - Marcus Heumann Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Earth Angel…" 

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 and the last five in the spring of 2013. Their "1954" instalment feels to me like a good place to start. 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 shoop-shoop-shoops, doobie shang-a-langs and sh-sh-sh-sh-booms...

Released October 2012 in Germany - "Street Corner Symphonies Volume 6: 1954" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Bear Family BCD 17284 AR (Barcode 4000127172846) breaks down as follows (89:04 minutes):

1. Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine) - THE PENGUINS (DooTone 348, B-side of "Hey Senorita")
2. Work With Me Annie - THE ROYALS (Federal 12169, A)
3. Gloria - THE CADILLACS (Josie 765, A)
4. Ling, Ting, Tong (Capitol 2945, A)
5. The Wind - THE DIABLOS featuring Nolan Strong (Fortune 511, A)
6. Lovey Dovey - THE CLOVERS (Atlantic 1022, A)
7. My Memories Of You - THE HARP-TONES (Bruce 102, A)
8. Hearts Of Stone - THE CHARMS (DeLuxe 6062, A)
9. Darling Dear - THE COUNTS (Dot 1188, A)
10. I'm Slippin' In - THE SPIDERS (Imperial 5291, A)
11. Sincerely - THE MOONGLOWS (Chess 1581, A)
12. Honey Love - THE DRIFTERS featuring CLYDE McPHATTER (Atlantic 1029, A)
13. A Thousand Stars - THE RIVILEERS (Baton 200, A)
14. Boot 'Em Up - THE DU DROPPERS (Groove 0036, A)
15. Dear One - THE SCARLETS (Red Robin 128, A)
16. Oop Shoop - SHIRLEY GUNTER and THE QUEENS (Flair 1050, A)
17. God Only Knows - THE CAPRIS (Gotham 304, A)
18. Sh-Boom - THE CHORDS (Cat 104, A)
19. Tryin' To Get To You - THE EAGLES (Mercury 70391, B-side to "Please, Please")
20. I Used To Cry Mercy, Mercy - THE LAMPLIGHTERS (Federal 12176, A)
21. Dream Of A Lifetime - THE FLAMINGOS (Parrot 808, A)
22. Mary Lee - THE RAINBOWS (Red Robin 134, A)
23. Please Remember My Heart - THE SOLITAIRES (Old Town 1006, A)
24. It Ain't That Way - THE HAWKS (Imperial 5292, A)
25. I "Do" - THE "5" ROYALES with Charlie 'Little Jazz' Ferguson and His Orchestra (Apollo 452, A)
26. House With No Windows - THE CHECKERS (King 4710, A)
27. My Daddy Stole My Chippie - THE PLAYBOYS
(unissued December 1954 Atlantic/Cat Records recording, first appeared on the US 1995 2CD set "Don't It Sound Good: The Great Atlantic Vocal Groups" on Rhino/Collector's Choice R2 7160)
28. Maybe You'll Be There - LEE ANDREWS and THE HEARTS (Rainbow 252, A)
29. Oh Yes I Know - THE JEWELS (R and B 1303, A)
30. The Letter - THE MEDALLIONS (DooTone 347, A)
31. Riot In Cell Block No. 9 - THE ROBINS (Spark 103, A)
32. Goodnite Sweetheart, Goodnite - THE SPANIELS (Vee-Jay 107, 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 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 1954 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 uber-rare "Tryin' To Get To You" 45 on Mercury that Elvis covered on his 1956 debut album (a Sun Records cut) 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 and can at times be crude - but the sound quality to my ears is improved on anything I've heard before. Some of these cuts are amazing in their clarity.

When you get past the big guns you've heard too often like "Earth Angel" and "Gloria" - you get the lesser-heard gems like "The Wind" from September 1954 by The Diablos (delicate and pure Vocal Group magic) and the lovely "My Memories Of You" by The Harp-Tones. November saw "Hearts Of Stone" by The Charms take their cover of a hit by The Jewels up to 15 in the charts. And "Sincerely" by The Moonglows is one of my all-time favourites of the genre - genius. "Dream Of A Lifetime" by The Flamingos shows what a class act they always were - and why they hold such a place in the hearts of Vocal Group collectors.

Rhythm `n' Blues boppers pops up more than once - the fantastic and witty "I'm Slippin' In" by The Spiders has our hero trying to sneak into his home at the three o'clock in the morning without the wife noticing. I bought a reissue album by The Du Droppers at the end of the Eighties (I think it was on De-Tour Records) and it contained the swinging brassy dancer "Boot 'Em Up" with Sam 'The Man' Taylor and Budd Johnson on Saxes with wicked guitar from Riff Ruffin. Another boppin' winner is the Rudolph Toombs Jiver "I Used To Cry Mercy, Mercy" by The Lamplighters with Thurston Harris on throaty Lead Vocals (wicked Sax solo too) as who doesn't dig the R'n'B of The "5" Royales

Rarities come in the shape of "God Only Knows" by The Capris which is a four-piece male group fronted by a lady - Savannah Churchill on Lead Vocals. It's just them and a piano - haunting stuff and a brilliant choice for inclusion. Fans of Elvis Presley will flip for the brilliant "Tryin' To Get To You" by The Eagles. Penned by Rose Marie McCoy and Charles Singleton (the same team who brought us "Boot 'Em Up" by The Du Droppers) - it's the Bluesy rendition that Elvis copied almost note for note for his 1956 explosive debut "Elvis". How cool is to have the original rarity (apparently a B-side to "Please, Please"). And although it's hissy the brilliant bopper "Mary Lee" by The Rainbows is new to me ands frankly a find. But a genuine sensation is the $500.00 listed "House With no Windows" by The Checkers - a Bluesy number with Little David Baughan on Lead Vocal (an absolute deadringer for Clyde McPhatter). It's just brilliant and comes at you in stunning audio 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...

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