Various Artists

Atlantic Vocal Groups 1951-1963

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The third in a series of Atlantic R&B box sets from Rhino Handmade, Atlantic Vocal Groups shares its size and scope with its two cousins Atlantic Blues and Atlantic Soul: it's packaged in an old-fashioned LP-sized 12x12 box, spans four discs, and balances classics with collector-bait rarities. In essence, it focuses upon one segment of the classic '80s Atlantic R&B series, stretches it out and expands it. Given that this is a limited-edition set targeted at hardcore collectors, the reliance on familiar hits is a touch disconcerting; anybody looking to sink $80 on this set will already have "One Mint Julep," "Sh-Boom," "Ruby Baby," "Mr. Lee," "Down in the Alley," "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" and "Blue Moon" in their collection, and sneaking sides like "Twist & Shout" doesn't quite feel right, as its too rhythm oriented for this harmony-heavy collection. This might provide some speed bumps but it hardly halts momentum, as Atlantic Vocal Groups piles up gem after gem, ranging from some true obscurities to shining light on such underappreciated treasures from big acts, like the Coasters' "Dance!," which is enough to make this a worthwhile investment for serious fans of doo wop and early rock & roll harmony groups.

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