James F. Cullinan writes:
'You can't please all of the people all of the time' certainly is true of CD compilations. Yet it seems the compilers of other doo wop CDs go out of their way to please as few people as possible, given the dross they dish out. In the case of this CD, each and every track has been rated amongst the all-time favourites of various collectors. Mathematic probability dictates that 20 of the 30 tracks here are going to grab the average doo wop listener. Each and every track has been carefully chosen. I do my research. I listen to collectors. I scrutinize polls of favourite records, and so on. I want to make sure that those who buy this disc are going to be more than glad they did. A lot of people are gonna go wild over this CD!
I was totally bowled over by the opening track, 'Bong, Bong (I Love You Madly)' by Vince Castro & The Tonnettes, when doo wop fanatic Kevin Jones played it to me over the phone. I had heard only the intro when I exclaimed, 'I gotta have it!' Why this one was never a hit and remained ignored and forgotten over the years baffles me. Its bright, bouncy, infectious, and dare I say it - commercial!
Next there's The Gladiolas' best record: no, not 'Little Darlin', but the thrilling 'Shoop, Shoop' which is a rocker with handclaps, throbbing piano: its got it all, a terrific rhythm, a strong hook ... drive. So why was that never a hit? Another belter is The Jesters' 'Oh, Baby'; followed by pure doo wop heaven: The Satellites' 'Heavenly Angel', a record with it all: chimes, emphatic bass, yearning lead, a monologue ... dreamy, other worldly. A killer! Thats followed by the deep doo wop of The Fascinators' 'Chapel Bells', an all-time gasser. Its flip, the up-tempo yet dreamy, 'I Wonder Who?' is also here. Both sides of The Ivytones' only single are here: 'Ooh Wee, Baby' a gimmicky, bass-laden stomper; and the anguished 'Each Time', which sounds like it was recorded in a saucepan. Ditto 'Bells' by The Edsels, the bassman droning like a heifer heavy with calf against a searing emotive lead.
The best doo wops are frequently noted for their technological inadequacies, and none can be more inadequate than The Laddins' curiously titled 'Did It': a raw street corner jump, so crude that when the bass does his monologue (rich in Harlem intonation) his voice reverberates back on the home tape recorder! Yet New York kids, wild for doo wop, went crazy for this in 1962. Another street classic, 'Vowels Of Love' by The Poets, opens with a 7-note bass riff, also drove hip New York kids wild (1961). It's banal, a complete embarrassment to anyone with higher musical aspirations! When you get into this stuff, you enter another world ... a world where imperfection beco9mes art!
Mary Johnson's very first record is here, the totally obscure and doo wop-ish 'Once Upon A Time'; also, The Shirelles' first 'I Met Him On A Sunday', a simple chant - far removed from the musicality of Goffin & King! And when it comes to bad taste - and I excel at it - you gotta dig The Inspirations' 'Raindrops (The Crying Song)', replete with monologue and sobbing. The group sound suspiciously like the fabulous Keynotes. A lot of soul and feeling here. And when it comes to 'soul' - before the word was devalued - dig its abundance in The Vocaltones' 'My Girl', and the powerful bluesy female lead on 'My Last Goodbye To You'.
'You Came To Me' by The 5 Crowns, is sublime; gorgeous R&B harmony, intricately executed, with a lead who gives his all. From 1955, this group would become the 'new' Drifters in '59. There are a number of well known doo wops here, included for folk relatively new to the music, such as The Students' fabulous 'I'm So Young', a plaintive kiddie wailer, and its flip, the rhythmic 'Every Day Of The Week'. The Sensations' 'Kiddy Car Lover' sounds like it could be a kiddie group, but no, it's Yvonne Baker delivering this New York jump. Another NY gas is 'To Make A Long Story Short' by Eddie & The Starlites, an atmospheric declaration of love.
The Blenders' 'My Heart's Desire' baffles the listener as to why it wasn't a hit: commercial and memorable, with a similar insistent baritone sax riff to The Continental Five's 'My Lonely Friend'. Another infectious track, The Versatiles' 'Passing By' hooks the listener with its hypnotic rhythm and soulful high lead. Other groups in this set include The Paragons, Monotones and The Temptations (King group).
We had 100 short listed for this volume, and had to whittle it down to 30. And even I learn and discover, for on this set is a record which became one of my all-time favourites, even though I had never heard it before in 50 years. You are almost certainly also in for a similar treat.
This is the ultimate 'outsider's music' - always marginalised, perplexing to the serious-minded. Come inside and dig - it sure beats the mechanical, pretentious and soulless music that passes for the norm.
1. Vince Castro & The Tonettes - Bong Bong (I Love You Madly)
2. Nicky And The Nobles - School Bells
3. Gladiolas - Shoop Shoop
4. Jesters - Oh Baby
5. Satellites - Heavenly Angel
6. Fascinators - Chapel Bells
7. Monotones - You Never Loved Me
8. Edsels - Bells
9. Students - I'm So Young
10. Eddie And The Starlites - To Make A Long Story Short
11. Shirelles - I Met Him On A Sunday
12. Marv Johnson - Once Upon A Time
13. Fascinators - I Wonder Who?
14. Laddins - Did It
15. Ivytones - Ooh Wee Baby
16. Paul Winley & The Rockers - Angel Child
17. Jesters - So Strange
18. Temptations - Standing Alone
19. Students - Every Day Of The Week
20. Five Crowns - You Came To Me
21. Ivytones - Each Time
22. Blenders - My Heart's Desire
23. Inspirations - Raindrops (The Crying Song)
24. Poets - Vowels Of Love
25. Sensations - Kiddy Car Love
26. Brenda Lee & The Vocaltones - My Last Goodbye To You
27. Paragons - Vows Of Love
28. Vocaltones - My Girl
29. Versatiles - Passing By
30. Paragons - Twilight