Saturday, 20 August 2016

"Street Corner Symphonies Volume 9: 1957" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2012 Bear Family CD - Marcus Heumann Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...The Look Of Love..." 

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 is The Book Of Love, Baby Oh Baby, Dedicated To The One I Love...

Released October 2012 in Germany - "Street Corner Symphonies Volume 9: 1957" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Bear Family BCD 17287 AR (Barcode 4000127172877) breaks down as follows (I've provided American single catalogue numbers on all tracks - 87:23 minutes):

1. Get A Job – THE SILHOUETTES (Junior 391, A)
2. Maybe – THE CHANTELS (End E-1005, A)
3. Little Darlin’ – THE GLADIOLAS (Excello 2101, A)
4. To The Aisle – THE FIVE SATINS (Ember 1019, A)
5. Searchin’ – THE COASTERS (Atco 6087, A)
6. Florence – PARAGONS (Winley 215, A)
7. Dedicated To The One I Love – THE “5” ROYALES (King 5098, A)
8. Book Of Love – THE MONOTONES (Argo 5290, A)
9. Long Lonely Nights – LEE ANDREWS and The Hearts (Chess 1665, A)
10. Mr. Lee – THE BOBBETTES with Reggie Obrecht Orchestra (Atlantic 45-1144, A)
11. Been So Long – THE PASTELS (Mascot M-123, A and Argo 5287, A)
12. Whispering Bells – THE DEL VIKINGS featuring Krips Johnson (Fee Bee FB-214, A)
13. Baby Oh Baby – THE SHELLS (Johnson 104, A)
14. Everyone’s Laughing – THE SPANIELS with Al Smith’s Orchestra (Vee Jay VJ 246, A)
15. Silhouettes – THE RAYS (Cameo 117, A)
16. Tell Me Why – NORMAN FOX and The Rob-Roys (Back Beat 501, A)
17. Why Do You Have To Go – THE DELLS (Vee Jay VJ 236, A)
18. Lover Boy – THE CLEFTONES (Gee G-1048, A)
19. Deserie – THE CHARTS (Everlast 5001, A)
20. My Girlfriend – THE CADILLACS (Josie 820, A)
21. Could This Be Magic – THE DUBS (Gone 5011, A)
22. Walking Along – THE SOLITAIRES (Old Town 1034, A)
23. Little Bitty Pretty One – BOBBY DAY and The Satellites (Class 211, A)
24. Tonite, Tonite – MELLO-KINGS (Herald H-502, A)
25. Peanuts – LITTLE JOE & THE THRILLERS (Leroy Kirkland Orchestra) (Okeh 4-7088, A)
26. Don’t Say Goodnight – THE VALENTINES (Rama RR-228, A)
27. Rang Tang Ding Dong (I Am The Japanese Sandman) – THE CELLOS (Apollo 510, A)
28. Happy, Happy Birthday Baby – THE TUNE WEAVERS (with Frank Paul’s Orchestra) (Checker 872, A)
29. Dance With Me – THE EL TORROS (Duke 175, A)
30. Can I Come Over Tonight – THE VELOURS (Sammy Lowe Orchestra) (Onyx 512, A)
31. Buzz-Buzz-Buzz – HOLLYWOOD FLAMES (Ebb 119, A)
32. So Strange – THE JESTERS (with David Clowney’s Band) (Winley 218, A)
33. Congratulations – THE TURBANS (Herald H-510, A)
34. Four O’Clock In The Morning – STANLEY MITCHELL and The Tornados (Chess 1649, A)

The 80-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 79 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 1957 peppering the text and some of those rare American 45 labels are even pictured in colour (Ebb, Atlantic, Chess, Winley). The CD repros the rare "Four O’Clock In The Morning" by Stanley Mitchell and The Tornados (a rare and beautiful outing for Chess with Vocal group material) 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 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...

1957 continued on from 1956 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 Volume 9 for 1957 is the compilation jewel in the crown for the entire “Street Corner Symphonies” run of 15 titles.

While the “dip, dip, dip…” opening of “Get A Job” by The Silhouettes has always been a topical and fun tune ("if there is any work for me!") – Vocal group magic really kicks in with the truly gorgeous "Maybe" by The Chantels (on End Records). Arlene Smith’s extraordinary vocals shine on this love song that made No. 2 on the American Billboard R&B charts in early 1958. The same applies to The Dubs and their sneakily lovely "Could This Be Magic" where Richard Blandon’s Lead Tenor soars as he croons about “having your love” (a No. 23 hit for the Harlem group on Billboard’s Pop charts in August 1957). But I could happily live without hearing the awful castanets of “Little Darlin’” ever again (by anyone) – better is the genuinely touching wedding favourite “To The Aisle” by The Five Satins (“each step draws you closer…”).

In between the ballads and crooners you get wicked Fifties R 'n' B dancers like the "on my merry way" song "Walking Along" by The Solitaires while Bobby Day does his Thurston Harris impression on “Little Bitty Pretty One” (top audio quality too). Lieber & Stoller’s incredible wit and knack with a hooky melody comes screaming through the decades with The Coasters doing “Searchin’” where our hero tells us “Sam Spade and Bulldog Drummond…ain’t got nuthin’ on me…” The drums come loud and clear inbetween the vocal gymnastics for The Monotones on their classic “Book Of Love”. Chess puts in a rare Vocal Group nugget with Lee Andrews pines “what’s left for me to face…” on “Long Lonely Nights”. The boppin’ “Mr. Lee” has always been a great party tune but then you’re hit with one of the genres masterpieces – the so sweet “Been So Long” by The Pastels on Mascot (reissued on Argo in 1958). It’s a listed $300.00 rarity on the original label and you can easily hear why - gorgeous.

The soft-shoe-shuffle of “Whispering Bells” by The Del Vikings is another superb dancer. Two rarities follow in the shape of The Shells and The Spaniels – the first a romantic smoocher – the other a sort of mid-tempo Salsa pleader. “Why Do You Have To Go” is typically classy of The Dells – a group that have continued for near 50 years after the event. We go all Mad Men cool with the slick bopper “Lover Boy” from The Cleftones about a “run around boy” who steals girls (“brother better beware…”).  And on it goes to the obscure but brilliant “Four O’Clock In The Morning” by Stanley Mitchell – a rare outing on Chess for the genre – piano and drums slowly working the “so worried” lyrics and Clyde McPhatter soundalike vocals. Fab…

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

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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