This two-CD compilation stands midway between Rhino's perfectly good Teenagers collection and Bear Family's monster box of every extant note of music that Lymon and company ever left behind. It's mid-priced, which is an advantage, and it has very detailed notes that explain the origins of a number of songs whose histories haven't always been clear, but it may be more Frankie Lymon than most of us need. But it is fun -- the first 14 songs on disc one include the entire Teenagers album, a staple of rock & roll collections (and the Roulette catalog) for decades, an album that Barry Lazell's notes remind us made it to number 19 on the charts, a major sales success for a '50s rock & roll album. The first 23 songs of 32 on disc one are the quintet's complete recordings "together," in the order in which they were done -- they reveal a thriving enterprise, a vocal group that could do relatively little wrong within the context of their era, most of their material solid romantic doo wop-style vocal rock. The new remasterings reveal more detail than Rhino's late-'80s work, and have a brighter sound, but they're not quite ideal, revealing some flaws (especially harshness) in the surviving masters ("Share") that detract from the listening experience. The tracks dating from after that first album, such as "Together" and "You," show the group and their management searching for a more sophisticated, romantic sound, with greater emphasis on Lymon's singing and the rest of the quintet pushed increasingly into the background -- and their final track together, Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine," had Lymon singing as part of the quintet, rather than as lead. The rest of the collection is a bit more problematic, interspersing most of Lymon's solo work with the eight recordings left behind by the Teenagers, working with a succession of post-Lymon successors. These are pretty lively tracks, although they lack a defined and attractive vocal personality like Lymon's out in front. It might have been more sensible to devote the remainder of disc one to the Teenagers and pile Lymon's material all together on disc two, because the Lymon material is stylistically more unified, even as it declines from an initial high ("Goody Goody") -- it's obvious listening to this material that Lymon's managers were trying to advance his career toward a harder rock & roll sound, covering numbers like "Jailhouse Rock" and "Silhouettes," but as he grew older his voice lost its distinctiveness. The material is pleasant and well-produced, but not terribly exciting and simply not interesting. Lazell's notes are informative, and the booklet re-creates various period trade ads for the group's releases. Still, most fans will likely opt for the Rhino CD, although this release does make the Bear Family and Collectables collections less desirable.
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