When I posted my review of the first release of the Doo Wop spin-off of the magnificent series The Golden Age Of American Rock `N' Roll back on June 11, 2008, I summed it up by saying I would love to see additional volumes compiled by the masters at Ace Records of London. Well, here's volume 2, and for those who love the Doo Wop sound of the late 1950s/early 1960s it automatically becomes an "essential" purchase. They simply don't get any better than this.
And as I've said in most of my reviews of Ace products, the inserts are almost worth the purchase price in and of themselves. In this case you get 23 pages of fascinating and very informative background notes by Peter Grendysa, written in 2009, sprinkled liberally throughout with photos of several of the groups (The Delcos, Deltaires, Johnny & The Tokens, Donnie & The Dreamers, The Bluenotes - in a reprint of a vintage promotional poster - The Spaniels, The Dukays), not to mention more poster/promotional reproductions and shots of the actual 45 rpm discs.
On the reverse of the jewel case is a list of the contents showing the original label number, the year of release (ranging from 1956 to 1963), the highest position gained on the U.S. Billboard singles charts, and the length of each track. Tracks 1 to 3, 5 to 7, 13, 18, 19, 23, and 26 to 28 all made the Billboard Top/Hot 100 Bubbling Under charts, while the rest scored somewhere on the Top/Hot 100. Somewhat surprising is the fact that so few managed to make the R&B listings (which they don't show anyway). So, for the record, these are the R&B hits among the contents: My Hero by The Blue Notes - with Harold Melvin at lead - which hit # 19 in 1960 and was their first hit single, reaching all the way back to a 1910 hit by Lucy Isabelle Marsh from the Broadway musical The Chocolate Soldier; and Everyone's Laughing by The Spaniels - # 13 in 1957 with the Al Smith orchestra.
Another group, The Van Dykes, had four R&B charters, but Gift Of Love wasn't one of them. The Dukays, of course, included Eugene Dixon - later to change his name to Gene Chandler, but Nite Owl was not among their R&B hits. They recorded that for the tiny NAT label and had it chart twice in 1962 - # 73 Hot 100in January for NAT, and # 88 in April following a re-release on Vee-Jay 430. They also recorded the immortal Duke Of Earl at NAT, nut when Vee-Jay bought the rights, they released it as by Gene Chandler.
The Enchanters at track 29 is not the same group that included Garnett Mimms. This white group was backed by the Dave McRae orchestra on I Lied To My Heart. Other bits of trivia is finding out that The Fidelity's reached back to 1941 for a hit by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (vocal by Bob Eberley) in The Things I Love, and that The Craftys on L-O-V-E are really the Halos who had a hit at the same time called Nag (the producer didn't want to release two records simultaneously by the same artist name).
All this is well covered in the liner notes which start off by saying "You can put away that dictionary - you won't find a better definition of "doo wop" than right here on this disc. From the mid-1950s when the teenagers of the world first realised they could sing, play guitars and drums and make hit records, into the 1960s when the favoured style became rock `n' roll bands and everybody was doing it, doo wop ruled the streets and back roads from coast to coast and across the sea."
Thanks to all those talented groups for the music that will live forever, and thanks to Ace for bringing them back to life.