Various Artists

Too Cute!

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The title says it perfectly, Too Cute! is a collection of early rock & roll, doo-wop, teen-pop, and girl group favorites that are the essence of cute. The oldest of the 15 songs on this 1995 CD is the Chordettes' "Mr. Sandman" from 1954, while the most recent is Shirley Ellis' goofy "The Name Game" from 1965. But most of the tunes are from the late '50s and early '60s. Anyone who has listened to an oldies station will know most or all of these selections, which range from the Coasters' "Charlie Brown" (1959), the Royal Teens' "Short Shorts" (1958), and the Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" (1958) to Lesley Gore's "It's My Party," Shelly Fabares' "Johnny Angel," and Marcie Blaine's "Bobby's Girl." The early '60s girl group sound, meanwhile, is nicely represented by the Angels' "My Boyfriend's Back" and the Dixie Cups' "Chapel of Love." Too Cute isn't the place to go for sexually explicit material or angry sociopolitical commentary, but it's definitely the place to go if you want to hear about teen-age puppy love. This collection transports us back to what seems like a more innocent era for rock & roll and teen-pop, at least by today's standards. At a time when gangsta rappers provide vivid descriptions of drive-by shootings in South-Central Los Angeles and alternative rockers aren't afraid to sing about having a bullwhip-toting dominatrix for a girlfriend, it's easy to think of the '50s and early '60s as a time when pop culture and teen culture were more innocent and naive. But as James Dean's classic performance in Rebel Without a Cause reminds us, not all teens were trouble-free in the '50s. Nonetheless, a lot of the rock & roll and teen-pop from that era was fun and lighthearted, and if you're looking for lighthearted escapism, you will find plenty of it on Too Cute.

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