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Various Artists

Doo-Wop Forever

(Empire Musicwerks; US: 18 Oct 2005; UK: Unavailable)

From "Yip-yip-yip" to "Ringa-dinga-ding ding"

What was that Danny and the Juniors used to sing back in the day, “Rock and Roll will never die”? Well they were right, as this new two-CD set proves. The music just gets endlessly repackaged, recycled, and released. In fact this anthology’s first 18-song disc of doo-wop singles from the ‘50s and pre-British Invasion ‘60s was originally issued just a few years ago as Doo-Wop Archives. The record label simply added a second album with 20 more tracks, gave it a new name, and voila, Doo-Wop Forever was born. This explains a lot when one downloads the material on one’s computer and the old CD title and track listing comes up when disc one plays and no information appears from the second recording. While Doo-Wop Forever may be a slapdash affair, the wonderful music included provides ample justification for its existence.


The two discs contain a wide range of material by solo artists, black rhythm and blues style groups, white teen pop artists, and integrated crooner bands. Some well-known doo-wop chart successes, such as the Jive Five’s “My True Story”, Jimmy Charles’s “A Million to One”, and the Danleers’ “One Summer Night”, are included, but what makes this compilation special are the lesser known regional hits. The Corvairs’ “True True Love” provides a great example of this. The group is barely known outside of collector circles, but as this cut shows, the vocalists sure can create a lot of excitement in less than two and a half minutes. From the opening “Yip-yip-yip-yip” to the closing “ringa-dinga-ding-ding”, the street corner energy just bubbles through this ode to teenage romance. As the quoted lines suggest, the lyrics don’t matter much. It’s the sound of the words, the infectious beat, and the mix of low vocals and high-pitched oohs and ahs, which makes the song worthy of repeated listens.


The same can be said of other high-powered tracks, like the Nutmegs’ pleading ode “Shifting Sands”, the Elchords’ slightly ribald “Peppermint Stick”, Lincoln Fig and the Dates’ soaring “Way Up”, and the Tokens’ expressively titled “Doom Lang”. (By the way, this is a different band than the other group with the same name that had several hits in the ‘60s such as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.) The two discs also contain a number of dreamy love songs, such as the cooing “Lullabye of the Bells” by the Deltaires, a slow version of the classic “Blue Velvet” by the Paragons”, and the almost cinematic narrative “Bells of Rosarita” by the Admirations. However, most of the cuts are somewhere in the middle; mid-tempo tributes to teenage love. While many of these have unfairly been forgotten, such as the Fireflies’ “You Were Mine”, with its infectious chorus of “You were mine / You were mine / You were really really mine”, sung in call-and-response by a boy and girl whose love has faded into a memory, a few have crept back into the public consciousness. For example, the semi-operatic “You” by Long Island’s the Aquatones has been recently featured in HBO’s hit television show The Sopranos


The music on these discs was originally issued on small, independent record labels back when a little bit of payola and lot of luck might make a star out of the kids next door. A few of the tunes (previously mentioned) did go on to become national bestsellers. Some of the artists on this compilation did go on to later success, like Maxine Brown, whose “Funny” (included here) was a small hit here back when she was on the obscure Nomar label, but who went on to become much more famous later on bigger labels with songs like “Oh No Not My Baby” and “Daddy’s Home”. However, most of the performers whose singles appear in this collection never did make it much beyond hometown fame. The CD’s liner notes indicate that the members of several bands featured here can no longer be identified.


The audience for doo-wop music has also decreased over the years as the original listeners have aged and died. The title of this compilation proclaims that the music will last forever, but this seems wishful thinking. Still, the release of this anthology is a positive step in bringing the music to a new generation.

Rating:

Steven Horowitz has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he continues to teach a three-credit online course on "Rock and Roll in America". He has written for many different popular and academic publications including American Music, Paste and the Icon. Horowitz is a firm believer in Paul Goodman's neofunctional perspective on culture and that Sam Cooke was right, a change is gonna come.


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