Ever since our primitive ancestors emerged from the primordial ooze and learned to walk upright, men have been going crazy over women, and once some caveman who could carry a tune invented music, they've been singing songs about them. As a consequence, one could easily compile a large and quite enjoyable box set of songs written in tribute to various members of the fair sex, and while the folks at Ace Records haven't gone quite that far, Girls! Girls! Girls!: A Yearbook of Dream Dates 1955-1965 does offer 28 songs that rock at various degrees of intensity as singers croon, warble and howl about the gals on their minds. The mood of these tunes ranges from Arthur Alexander's mournful "Anna (Go to Him)" (later covered by the Beatles) to Roy Orbison's celebratory "Claudette," and the velocity swings from Larry Williams' frantic "Baby's Crazy (Marie, Marie)" and Eddie Cochran's freewheeling "Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie" to the teenage heartache of Neil Sedaka's "Oh, Carol" and the gentle "Cindy, Oh Cindy" by Vince Martin & the Tarriers (with Alan Arkin on guitar!). A few well-known songs appear in unusual versions -- instead of Ricky Nelson's recording of "Hello, Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart)," we get a rare take by Gene Pitney (who wrote it), and Del Shannon's cover of "Marie's the Name (Of His Latest Flame)" makes the cut instead of Elvis Presley's version, which was the one that hit the charts (though Shannon's take is a true gem). But nearly all of the tunes here are lots of fun (even the numbers by the normally odious Fabian and Frankie Avalon, who at least knew how to sing about girls), and along with documenting pop music's ongoing obsession with women, this is an entertaining overview of the musical shape-shifting during rock & roll's first decade, from the early days of rockabilly and R&B to the relative polish of the Brill Building era and the L.A. studio sound. Very fun stuff, and hopefully a second volume is in the works (or perhaps a companion piece in which women get their say about the boys).
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