Various Artists

The Golden Age of American Rock 'n' Roll: The Follow-Up Hits

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Having run through a few hundred genuine classic hits from rock & roll's first decade in its previous volumes, the series The Golden Age of American Rock 'n' Roll was starting to concentrate on thematic compilations by the time of this 2008 release. This one has 30 "follow-up hits," or singles released immediately or soon after a big smash 45 by the same artist. Most follow-up hits, of course, didn't do as well as what they were following up, usually because the songs sounded too much like their predecessors and/or weren't as strong. That's true of most of the cuts here, actually, but that doesn't mean this doesn't have some good (and usually low-charting) rock & roll chart hits from 1956-1963. A good number of these were almost as good, and almost as popular, as the more famous songs they were following up, including Danny & the Juniors' "Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay," Bobby Freeman's "Betty Lou Got a New Pair of Shoes," Shirley & Lee's "I Feel Good," Chuck Willis' "Betty and Dupree," Chris Montez's "Some Kinda Fun," and Dion & the Belmonts' "No One Knows." There are also some solid entries from a few bona fide rock & roll greats, even if those don't qualify as among their best recordings, like Gene Vincent's "Dance to the Bop" and Ritchie Valens' "That's My Little Suzie." You also, alas, get some numbers that were basically inferior attempts to replicate the mood of the big hit, like Mickey & Sylvia's "There Oughta Be a Law" (following "Love Is Strange"), Joe Bennett & the Sparkletones' "Penny Loafers and Bobby Socks" (following "Black Slacks"), and Bobby Day's "The Bluebird, the Buzzard and the Oriole" (following "Rockin' Robin"). Some other selections are fairly unmemorable by any standard, and only occasionally do you get items that are genuinely fine overlooked obscurities (the Cascades' harmony pop/rock ballad "Shy Girl" and Joe Jones' original version of "California Sun," later covered for a hit by the Rivieras). And some cuts are pretty derivative of other artists, as the Velvets' "Laugh" is of the Drifters, though that song does have the curiosity value of being co-written by Roy Orbison. The strong thematic core, however, makes this CD a more interesting compilation than most other anthologies of lesser-known rock & roll hits from the era, with excellent liner notes summarizing the backgrounds of the songs and performers.