Break-Ups, Bouffants, Boy-Drama - Vintage Girl Groups
One of the Christmas presents I received this year was a boxed set compilation of girl group songs from the '60s, entitled: One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found.
This one's from the folks over at Rhino Records, who at this point, know the boxed set genre better than almost anyone else in the music industry.
Now, I'm a sucker for this sort of deal, 'cuz I'm lazy, and this makes for a convenient way to gather up a bunch of great songs in one fell swoop. And gathering up a bunch of great songs is what this compilation's all about. I'm about three quarters through the set (for those following along at home, this means I've heard 3 out of the 4 discs included in this set) and I've been aggressively using the repeat button on the remote. Formerly dismissed by some as inconsequential pop fluff from an era that's better off forgotten, this set contains high quality music throughout and should give pause to any naysayers who've poo-pooed the genre. The production, songwriting, and the vocal performances here are all top notch. Seriously, the quality of the tunes speak for themselves and as a long-time music geek that's about the highest compliment I can pay.
Rhino, as is their wont, does a uniformly excellent job across the board on this set. The liner notes serve as a history lesson for those who are unfamiliar with the story behind the rise and subsequent fall of the girl group sound. The remastering of the source material is first rate, also. Given that many of these songs are/were obscure 45's and are therefor somewhat hard-too-find, this is no small accomplishment. The only thing missing from this set are the contributions from Wall Of Sound creator, and all around whack-ass, Phil Spector. The former girl group svengali is not one to issue licensing rights for any of his biggest hits to anything or anybody that doesn't put him on a pedestal and worship at his feet, consequently there's no Spector stuff here. Rhino gets the last laugh though, 'cuz his presence (or lack thereof) isn't an issue due to the high level of non-Spector-affiliated material the producers of this set dug up. In other words, Spector gets to take the piss while the rest of us enjoy revisiting the '60s without him.
Interesting to note who some of these performers are; for instance, Cher, Dolly Parton, Brenda Lee, and even Connie Francis, all recorded songs that rocket way off their chosen musical paths to perform tunes that fall well within the confines of girl groupdom. If you peruse the tracklist, you'll find plenty of recognizable names (Little Eva, The Shangri-Las, The Shirelles, The Ronettes) to go along with the obscurities (The Fabulettes, Goldie & The Gingerbreads, The Whyte Boots, etc) and what holds them all together thematically (and qualitatively) are the storylines, Boy drama (loving, longing, hoping, wishing for, etc, etc) being first and foremost, followed by family drama at home and hearth over said boys... There's also the spectre of death hanging over a lot of these songs. Car crashes, motorcycle crashes, gang fights and things of that nature all take their toll on the inhabitants of many of these recordings. Musically speaking, you've got doo-wop styled pop taken to many different places; psychedelia, R&B, and countrypolitan are just some of the influences that appear. And the glue that holds it all together? I think it's the 3 H's - hooks, harmonies, and handclaps - those three things bind all of the diversity together and somehow structure the songs into the easily recognizable format that we know as vintage girl group tunes.
When all is said and done, what you have here is a truly terrific set of tunes that are as eminently listenable as they are historically fascinating. And for you kitsch freaks out there, it comes in a hatbox, too!
Tuneage presently turning: see above :-)