Various Artists

Bandera Doo Wop

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The small Chicago-based Bandera label was most notable for being involved in the early career of Jerry Butler & the Impressions, though its commercial impact was tiny even in comparison to fellow Chicago R&B labels, such as Vee-Jay. It recorded a lot of doo wop and R&B/rock vocal group music in the late '50s and early '60s, much of which is on this 26-track CD, pressed in a limited edition of 1,500 copies. Though Ace doesn't exploit it much in the packaging, it's most notable by far for the inclusion of ten early recordings by the Impressions, only a couple of which found release at the time (on a 1959 Bandera single). The rest of them have a sparse and slightly lo-fi sound, with Curtis Mayfield's guitar often serving as the sole instrumental backing; six of them (including a couple demos) make their first appearance on this compilation. While these have only a glimmer of the brilliance of the soul that the Impressions (which included Butler on all of these recordings except the 1959 single) would produce in the 1960s, they're a valuable insight into their more doo wop/gospel-oriented roots, as well as a snapshot of their harmonies at this very early stage of their career. The remainder of the collection doesn't have any such big names, but is a little above average as anthologies of obscure doo wop go, in part because these Chicago outfits seemed to have a somewhat earthier, less corny approach to the form than many similar acts in other parts of the country. It's still largely limited in appeal to Impressions historians and doo wop specialists due to the fairly ordinary material, though the Boomerangs impress more than some of the other groups with their Mayfield/Impressions-like "Love Causes People to Go Insane." As a side note, Ace's typically thorough booklet of notes includes a reproduction of a fascinating 1959 letter from Main Line Distributors to Bandera, matter-of-factly detailing how $150 of payola will be needed to get the Impressions' single "Listen" airplay on the major Philadelphia station WIBG.

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