Various Artists

Boys Can Be Mean

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Plucked almost entirely from the pinnacle years of the girl group era, 1963-1965, the fantastic two-disc collection Boys Can Be Mean assembles more than 30 gems into one nonstop haven of lovestruck harmonies, teenage lament, and melodramatic melodies. Red Bird/Blue Cat Records artists like Evie Sands, the Shangri-Las, and the Jelly Beans offer the most easily recognizable submissions here, though even their selections aren't the most well-known hits they have to offer. The true strength of this collection comes from the deeper cuts, many having seen their widest distribution before this comp on the original 45s. Right out of the gate, Betty Everett sets the tone with her Northern soul-tinged groover "Gettin' Mighty Crowded," followed later by her equally crushing "I Can't Hear You." Bessie Banks, known primarily for her original hit with "Go Now," shows up with the slinky B-side "It Sounds Like My Baby," while the Dixie-Cups' "Little Bell" serves as a ghostly tangential afterthought to their mega-hit "Chapel of Love." Different sides to groups that made names for themselves on the strength of two or three hits are mixed up with oddball forgotten amazements like the barely cognizant "Bad Motorcycle" by the Angelos or buried gems like the antagonistically cheery "Happy Town" by Kelli & the Kittens. The inclusion of a few one-off wonders such as Leola & the Lovejoys reconfiguring "Wade in the Water" into a wrong-side-of-the-tracks heartbreak story and the Society Girls' completely dumbfounding anthem against doin' your lady wrong entitled "S.P.C.L.G. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Little Girls)" makes Boys Can Be Mean a fully rounded necessity for any girl group enthusiast. Never sacrificing the quality of the material for obscurity, this compilation hits the mark on almost every track, and shines brightly as a consistently interesting and revisitable collection.

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