Ellie Greenwich

Brill Building Sounds: Be My Baby, Recordings 1958-1985

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Like the other compilations of rarities in Brill Tone's series (for Carole King, Barry Mann, and Jeff Barry), this is probably unauthorized, of considerable value to serious fans, and infuriatingly inconsistent in both content and presentation. The 56-track, two-CD set includes almost anything you're likely to find that was recorded by Greenwich as a solo artist, although it omits most of her Raindrops recordings (which have been reissued separately, and legitimately). The relatively simple question "what's on here?" cannot be answered simply. There are all her rare Red Bird solo singles and outtakes; weird, insubstantial solo singles she recorded in the late '50s and early '60s, sometimes under different names like Ellie Gee & the Jets, Ellie Gaye, and Kellie Douglas; everything from her 1968 United Artists LP and her 1973 Verve LP, as well as both sides of a 1969 non-LP single; and about 20 previously unreleased songs. It's "about" 20 because, although the cover says there are 21 unissued tracks, only 19 are marked as such in the liner notes. Disappointingly, these unreleased items don't include, say, her own 1960s versions of "Be My Baby" or "Da Doo Ron Ron," but are actually usually by composers other than herself and partner Jeff Barry, on which she was probably just serving as a demo singer. On top of this, just to fill out disc one, they throw in a bad unreleased Carole King acetate ("Don't Count Your Chickens") and a pretty cool Barry Mann 1965 demo of "We Gotta Get Out of This Place." Of the unreleased material, it's usually, unfortunately, weak to average unmemorable early- to mid-'60s Brill Building pop, though "Disillusioned" almost makes it as a good song, and "House of Gold" was later done well by Dee Dee Warwick. There are a couple real good obscurities here -- her dramatic 1965 single "You Don't Know," which should have been a hit, and her lovely, poignant 1965 track "Can't Hide the Hurtin'" (which, say the liner notes, was previously erroneously credited to the Raindrops). But both of those have been reissued, above-board, on other CD compilations. Disc two is almost totally devoted to the 1968 and 1973 albums, which have some good moments but are overall disappointing, and too heavy on remakes and covers. Besides, both of them have been reissued, with non-LP cuts, on Raven's Ellie Greenwich compilation. A couple of 1985 tracks from Elektra's Leader of the Pack album are ok but inessential. After all this, by the way, a rarity (1962's "Big Honky Baby") that was ascribed to Greenwich on Ellie Greenwich is not included on this set.