After waiting years for a Gene & Eunice collection finally this one appeared. Their two huge mid-50's R&B hits, "Ko Ko Mo" and "This Is My Story" have been hard to find, even on multi-artist compliations, and their later pop hit, "Poco Loco" near impossible. Thankfully, this collection fixes that, so grab it while you can.
Gene & Eunice were perhaps the best pure singers of the successful mid-50's male-female duos, but they might have lacked the distinctive sound their many counterparts had. As a result, Gene & Eunice were prime for that nefarious trend of white pop covers that infested R&B at the time. "Ko Ko Mo" was recorded by nearly everyone in the universe it seemed (your grandparents might have cut a version), and most of these covers outsold the original. Because they didn't score a crossover hit their legacy has been severely lacking since.
So, does this collection do them justice? It's a British import, that should answer your question. The Brits love vintage American rock 'n' roll and treat it with a reverence often lacking here. This disc is loaded with treasures, including a great booklet with informative liner notes that describe the duo, their individual histories, their record label conflicts, the music and the times in general, plus a sessionography, pics and memorabilia.
As for the songs themselves they are consistantly good (written by the duo in tandem mostly), mid-tempo R&B, with clever lyrics and structure, all done with a surprising amount of integrity that kept them from simply reusing the same formula that got them their early hits, even as their sales began to plummet.
But the real find here comes on the latter half of the disc (cuts #18-28) where they mined the archives for demos, alternate takes and solo work. We hear Gene coaching Eunice on a new composition, stops and starts while working out the arrangements for the first time, and the vocals done "dry" with just Gene accompanying on piano. Even if sessions are not your thing (you may find them derivitive or annoying after the master takes), don't fret. These are beautifully done, and as fascinating to hear as the finalized masters.
If there is one complaint it's that they could've used two versions of even more songs. "Ko Ko Mo" was originally cut for Combo in 1954, and when it was released and began climbing the charts the bigger independant label Aladdin came along and informed them they were already under contract to their company and had them come in to re-cut the song and released it themselves in a "competing" version. This collection includes the original Combo takes (including B-side) which were the officially credited hits on the charts, but it would've been interesting to hear just how close they came to duplicating the performance with Aladdin. Also, "Flim Flam" is here as a demo only, not the final take, which is a shame since it is one of their best compositions. With all the extras, it would've been nice to get 30 cuts to fill it out completely.
Even so, this is a great job by Ace Records and should serve as a blueprint for how to go about issuing collections on other so called "minor" artists.