I have to declare an interest. I'm hopelessly in love with the London-American label and that love affair started as far back as 1957. It wasn't for several years later that I rationalised it; if it hadn't been for this label I would have been without more than half the music that I worshipped in the 50's. That is without Chuck, Jerry Lee, the Ev's, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Fats, and loads more. London American was the route through which so much fantastic music reached me. OK, drool over; now let's get on with the review.
I've noted some degree of controversy on this series from One Day Music so I thought I'd have a look at them and see what I thought. Results below:
1. I note the legitimate objection raised against the use of alternate or re-recorded tracks, without, of course, any warning. I can certainly sympathise with this. If one remembers a track in a certain way, particularly from 50 plus years ago, then that way is the right way and any change is wrong (regardless of the technical merit of the change). The fact that you're given no warning of this (plus the fact that in the vast majority of cases the original could and should have been used) would seem to add insult to injury. I certainly wouldn't condone this and don't see that it's my job to defend One Day. However I feel I should add that it would appear to occur on a minority of tracks leaving a goodly number correctly present for one's enjoyment at a cheap price. Indeed the words cheap and cheerful come to mind. Maybe not quite as c and c as the 101 Hits type albums but getting close.
2. The One Day album selection looks as if it's largely based on track chart position either in the UK or, more likely, the US. This is unlike the Ace series which selects a number of obvious biggies for each year plus some interesting rarities. Ace, of course also provide marvellous track by track info which, for many, increases the enjoyment. However the One Day approach is more likely to provide a higher volume of "representative" music for the period. There's also the corollary that if tracks that have been re-recorded - see above - are relatively well known then it possibly isn't too difficult to get hold of the correct ones if you're that keen a collector.
3. Following on the last point and looking at the contents of each of the "years" in the series it's noticeable that most of the tracks for years 1958 through to 1960 are (a) pretty damn good, and, (b) reflective of UK chart entries. As a side comment I would add that UK and US charts were very different in the early and mid 50's. It's not until the late 50's that we saw greater similarity. At the time I recall, we always envied the yanks the records in their charts; ours seemed to contain such a high portion of rubbish! Anyway what's interesting is that for 1957 the One Day set has a higher proportion of less familiar tracks and for 1956 - arguably the first year of rock'n'roll in terms of charts (but obviously not R&B which is a different story) - there are actually relatively few familiar tracks.
4. Continuing the analysis of the 1956 set it's noticeable that there are far more tracks present which one might term 50's easy listening or middle of the road. For example, the Gale Storm's, the Billy Vaughan, Andy Williams, Cogi Grant, Davy Crockett! and plenty more. At the same time there's some very good R&B included in the shape of Clyde McPhatter, Ruth Brown, Lavern Baker, Joe Turner, the Clovers and more. There's also genuine rock'n'roll from Chuck , Fats and wee Dickie Penniman. There's even a very obscure (and great) rockabilly number from Werly Fairburn. There's a cracking zany doowop number in "Stranded in the Jungle" from the Cadets. There's the rocker that many of us treasured at the time, Sanford Clark's "The Fool", but no one got round to buying! And even better there's the record that may have started swamp pop in the shape of "On bended Knee" from the late great, Bobby Charles. Oh, and there's also the fantastic "Cry me a River" from Julie London which I'll always listen to (and would Bobby Bland have cried so much if Julie hadn't taught him how?). And I won't say anything about the Pat Boone covers other than note that Boone doesn't appear in the set for `57 (so there!).
5. There's hardly anything in this set that did dramatically well in the UK hit parade though many of these probably did chart in the US. Interestingly none of the big rock names in this set did very well in the UK in `56. Chuck didn't chart at all. Little Richard scraped a low position with "Rip it up". Fats got into the top ten with "Blueberry Hill" and that`s about it.
6. Looking back on it all, it's a relief that London American (and Decca as their parent label) weren't dissuaded by lack of major chart action in the early years. The following year, 1957, as represented on the One Day set was an absolute stormer combining a great combination of familiar but great, plus less familiar but also great. However I'm very happy to have had a peek at the London American output for 1956.
7. I can't seriously comment on sound quality since I've merely listened to the previews available for the later years. There was nowt there that struck me as terrible and I would never ask for high quality stereo (or mono even) on this kind of music. It was produced so that you could hear it on tinny transistor radios and cheap (Dansette?) record players. Anything beyond that is a bonus so long as there aren't big differences in level and quality between tracks and I didn't hear anything like that here.
Thank you One Day for giving us this stuff. Even with faults it's great to have.
Four and half stars so I guess I'll have to round down to four.
on 1 March 2012
If I had been alive in the 50s I would have been broke for buying all of the great music that came out of the era. Although I'm only in my 40s and as my cousin likes to tell me I should not remember this time for music. Pat Boone, The Chordettes and little richard I got use to listening to when I was little and I was told ray charles would always put me to sleep. A Great collection of music in volumes from 56 to 62 possible I hope they keep these issues coming as they are fantastic.