Thursday, 18 August 2016

"Street Corner Symphonies Volume 7: 1955" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2012 Bear Family CD - Marcus Heumann Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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. 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 Fools in Love down at Smokey Joe's Café...

Released October 2012 in Germany - "Street Corner Symphonies Volume 7: 1955" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Bear Family BCD 17285 AR (Barcode 4000127172853) breaks down as follows (I've provided American single catalogue numbers on all tracks - 88:26 minutes):

1. Why Do Fools Fall In Love - THE TEENAGERS featuring FRANKIE LYMON (Gee GG-1002)
2. Most Of All - THE MOONGLOWS (Chess 1589)
4. Close Your Eyes - THE FIVE KEYS (Capitol F 3032)
5. At My Front Door - THE EL DORADOS (Vee Jay VJ-147)
6. Adorable - THE COLTS (Vita V-112)
7. What'Cha Gonna Do - CLYDE McPHATTER and THE DRIFTERS (Atlantic 1055)
8. Story Untold - THE NUTMEGS (Herald H-452)
9. Only You (And You Alone) - THE PLATTERS (Mercury 70633)
10. Don't Change Your Pretty Ways - THE MIDNIGHTERS (Federal 12243)
11. Lonely Nights - THE HEARTS with AL SEARS ORCHESTRA (Baton 208)
12. When You Dance - THE TURBANS (Herald H-458)
13. Got The Water Boiling - THE REGALS (Atlantic 1062)
14. The Way You Dog Me Around - THE DIABLOS featuring NOLAN STRONG (Fortune 518)
15. Chop Chop Boom - THE DANDELIERS/DALLAS TAYLOR Vocalist (States S-147)
17. Come Back My Love - THE WRENS (Rama 65)
18. Why Don't You Write Me - THE JACKS (RPM 428)
19. Witchcraft - THE SPIDERS (Imperial X 5366, B-side of "Is It True?")
20. Life Is But A Dream - THE HARPTONES (Paradise 101)
21. Smokey's Joe Café - THE ROBINS (Spark 122 and Atco 6059)
22. Smoke From Your Cigarette - THE MELLOWS featuring LILLIAN LEACH (Jay-Dee 797)
23. You Tickle Me Baby - THE ROYAL JOKERS with Orchestra (Atco 6052)
24. Heaven And Paradise - DON JULIAN and THE MEADOWLARKS  (DooTone 359)
25. You Baby You - THE CLEFTONES/JIMMY WRIGHT & His Orchestra (Gee GG-1000)
26. Burn That Candle - THE CUES (Capitol F 3245)
27. It Wasn't A Lie - THE FI-TONES QUINTETTE (Atlas 1051)
28. Rollin' Stone - THE MARIGOLDS (Excello 2057)
29. Newly Wed - THE ORCHIDS (Parrot 815)
30. Zindy Lou - THE CHIMES (Specialty 555, B-side of "Tears On My Pillow")
31. Lily Maebelle - THE VALENTINES (Rama RR-171)
32. The Door Is Still Open - THE CARDINALS (Atlantic 1054)
33. Red Hots And Chili Mac - THE MOROCCOS/Vocal by Ralph Vernon (United U-193)
[Note: Track 10 by THE MIDNIGHTERS is co-written by and features Hank Ballard]

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 1955 peppering the text and some of those rare American 45 labels are even pictured in colour (Rama, Vita, Mercury, Parrot, Imperial, States, Atco, Specialty and Herald). The CD repros the rare "The Door is Open" 45 on Atlantic by The Cardinals (a Chuck Willis song) 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 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 everything I've heard before. Some of these cuts are amazing in their clarity - especially the Atlantic and DooTone sides. Rarities include The Orchids ($400.00), Don Julian and The Meadowlarks ($200.00), The Valentines ($200.00), The Wrens ($150.00), The Harptones ($150.00, The Fi-Tones Quintette ($100.00) and many more.

In between the ballads and crooners you get wicked Fifties R 'n' B dancers like the "cooking your goose" song by The Regals ("Got The Water Boiling") and "the spell's on me now" tune by The Spiders ("Witchcraft"). Another dancer is the guitar-driven "Don't Change Your Pretty Ways" with Hank Ballard giving it some "baby please" vocals out front. I've never heard the zippy "Red Hots And Chili Mac" or the frantic "At My Front Door" by The Moroccos and The El Dorados but they're tight. Mid-tempo tunes include "Chop Chop Boom" by The Dandeliers and The Colts accurate cover of "Adorable" (originally a hit for The Drifters) while vocal group magic comes in the shape of The Moonglows, The Diablos, The Cardinals (what a tune) and the lovely Lillian Leach vocal on "Smoke From Your Cigarette" - a bluesy lounge lizard. Purists will love the gorgeous and classy "It Wasn't A lie" by the obscure Fi-Tones Quintette - as good as example as you can get of a Street Corner Symphony. Even the overly familiar "Only You (And You Alone" sounds fresh - very nicely done.

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. 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. Gold standard as always from Bear...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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