Gerry & the Pacemakers

Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying/Second Album/I'll Be There!/Girl on a Swing

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Herman's Hermits are the recognized benchmark among British bands who were more popular in the United States than at home, but it's worth noting that Gerry & the Pacemakers achieved a similar fascinating distinction: they only released one proper album at home during their 1963-1966 reign on the charts, but issued four albums in America during the same time frame. This set from the U.K. reissue label Beat Goes On collects all 48 tracks from Gerry & the Pacemakers' four American LPs (originally issued by Laurie Records) on two CDs, and it's a thorough collection that honestly delivers more than most fabs are likely to want or need. Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying features the group's first three British hits ("How Do You Do It," "You'll Never Walk Alone," and the title tune) and captures the band at its best, centered around Gerry Marsden's clear, agreeable vocals and the tight, upbeat sound of the band. The album also features several songs written by Marsden, which suit the group better than the rock & roll and R&B covers on board, though they sound fine on Larry Williams' "Slow Down." Second Album leads off with another of the Pacemakers' hits, "I Like It," but otherwise is devoted to covers, single B-sides, and EP cuts, and even repeats two songs from the first album (the same take of "Jambalaya" shows up twice, but at least Second Album includes a live recording of "Slow Down" rather than repeating the studio version from the debut). I'll Be There is short on hits and only features two originals from Marsden, but the strength of the performances gives the album a leg up on Second Album, and given the Pacemakers' well-scrubbed style, they sound better than expected on "Rip It Up," "What'd I Say," and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." Girl on a Swing closes out this set, and while the title track was one of the band's biggest hits, the album is dominated by some really drab covers -- was anyone really eager to hear Gerry & the Pacemakers do "Strangers in the Night" or "Guantanamera"? Unfortunately, since United Artists owned the rights to the soundtrack to Ferry Cross the Mersey, this collection leaves off two of Gerry & the Pacemakers' biggest and best hits, the title song and "It's Gonna Be Alright," but otherwise the collection presents the Gerry & the Pacemakers' story writ large, and while most fans would probably prefer something more streamlined, there are plenty of solid lesser-known recordings on deck for serious collectors.

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