The UK's leading reissue label ACE Records maintains its high standards with its sixth volume chronicling the early pop/rock scene in America from 1954-1963. As always, top-notch sound, an unheard of 30 tracks on a single disc compilation, and an informative 20-page booklet. Once again, ACE focuses on small, independent labels which means you aren't going to be getting the same old songs that have been recycled for the Baby Boomer generation for the past 30 years. In fact, only six of these songs were Top Ten and nearly half (13) didn't even reach the Top 40. What you get is a thoughtful blend of the familiar along with some forgotten treasures.
The album kicks off with the Crescent City sound of John Fred's "Shirley." If the name sounds familiar, it should. While his first single flopped in 1958 (as did his next 14 singles), he topped the charts ten years later in 1968 with "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)." Another terrific New Orleans R&B song from 1958 is Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns' "Don't You Just Know It."
There are a couple terrific rockabilly songs--the Sparkletones' 1957 hit "Black Slacks" and Jimmy Edwards' "Love Bug Crawl" that came out the same year (although it stalled at No. 78).
"Come Go With Me" was a million-seller by one of the first integrated doo-wop groups in 1957. The Quotations weren't as successful with their doo-wop version of the pop standard "Imagination," which didn't crack the Top 40. The most successful doo-wop song included here was the Elegant's "Little Star," which topped the charts in 1958. [Note: Unlike volumes 1-5, which struck more of a balance between the late-Fifties and early-Sixties songs, all but a handful of these were released in the fifties on volume 6.]
Other hits include the Royal Teens' "Short Shorts," perhaps best known for featuring future Four Season's member Bob Gaudio, who wrote their first hit "Sherry" and co-wrote many of their biggest hits of the Sixties.
A surprise is the inclusion of Ricky Nelson's second hit, the Fats Domino cover of "I'm Walkin'." The surprise is that ACE tends to include only artists with one or two hits (two dozen of these acts didn't have more than one Top 40 hit), and Nelson charted 36 times, making him the most chart active artist on the first six volumes of this series.
Highlights (and there are many) include Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love," a song that charted in 1955 two months after Ace tragically died on Christmas Eve while playing Russian Roulette. Then there's former Domino and Drifter Clyde McPhatter's plaintive "Lover Please." And the Rivington's original version of "Papa-oom-mow-mow" from 1962. It would do no better than No. 48, but two years later, the Trashment would take this song and the Rivington's other most memorable song, "The Bird Is the Word," rename it "Surfin' Bird" and take it to No. 4.
By itself, this volume is not as strong as the first three, but as a total series package it's unbeatable. If you love early rock and roll, be sure to add this volume to your collection. RECOMMENDED