Various Artists

Dick Clark's American Bandstand 50th Anniversary

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Whether or not all of the artists and songs represented on this 12-CD boxed set of oldies spanning the 1950s into the '80s were actually featured on American Bandstand is never made clear, but the implication is that, more so than any other TV program, AB was where the music went to be heard first during the show's long run. There is some validity to that claim -- very few major recordings artists didn't welcome the exposure that Bandstand offered, but this set isn't so much a nod to the show itself as the latest in a long string of cleverly marketed products from Dick Clark, who has never been shy about slapping his own name or that of his brand onto a package. Taken on its own merits, which is as it should be, it's a very solid collection of major hit records from the rock era, incorporating early rock & roll, R&B, classic rock, disco, and everything in between. Broken down into six double-disc sets, the songs are divvied up thematically, though one could easily make a case for nearly any of these records to appear on a different volume than it does. The first, "Best of the Spotlight Dances," is comprised primarily of ballads from artists as far apart stylistically as the Commodores, Bread, Crystal Gayle, Dion & the Belmonts, and the Beach Boys. Volume two, "I Can't Help Myself," gets going with the Four Tops' hit of that name but also gets around to Manfred Mann, ABBA, and Donna Summer. And so on. The other sets -- "Rock Around the Clock," "Dance, Dance, Dance," "Good Vibrations," and "Bandstand Boogie" -- may suggest moods, but in the end they're programmed fairly randomly, just a good excuse to put together a couple of hundred AM hits and sell them once again. A bonus DVD has the only direct connection to the fabled program, containing ten short interviews with artists taken from American Bandstand's archives. Sam Cooke talks about his transition from gospel singer to R&B star ("economic reasons," he states with honesty), and the Doors are predictably coy when Clark tries to pin them down to a description of their sound. There are a couple of moments that speak volumes: when Clark asks Michael Jackson, "What are you, some kind of a nut?" when the singer, then in his early teens, confesses to keeping a boa constrictor in his room, Jackson only chuckles. And Madonna, when asked in 1984 what she would still like to accomplish, says, "To rule the world." If we knew then.

Track Listing - Disc 13

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
blue highlight denotes track pick