This special edition of Ace's extensive The Golden Age of American Rock'n'Roll series of 1950s and early-'60s oldies' anthologies only makes perfect sense as a purchase if you're collecting every volume. For its 30 tracks are entirely devoted to filling in gaps not covered by the other dozen volumes -- specifically, doo wop chart singles from 1953-63 that, for one reason or another, weren't selected for inclusion in any of the previous installments. Because it's a mix of very big, familiar hits with lower-charting obscurities, it's not wholly satisfactory as either a collection for listeners trying to selectively assemble the best and biggest doo wop singles, or for specialized doo wop collectors, who will inevitably already have a good share of this in their library already. All that noted, The Golden Age of American Rock'n'Roll series is the best series of anthologies of early rock & roll oldies, and if you've been collecting those all along, this is a great, useful addition to that project. Additionally, on its own terms this has a bunch of classic big doo wop hits and some very good lesser-known hits in the style, though some of the songs that only made the lower reaches of Billboard's Top 100 are rather forgettable. The great ones include the Marcels' "Blue Moon," the Platters' "The Great Pretender," the Chimes' "Once in a While," the Diamonds' "Little Darlin'," the Orioles' "Crying in the Chapel," the Cleftones' "Heart and Soul," the Moonglows' "Sincerely," Lee Andrews & the Hearts' "Try the Impossible," and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers' "Why Do Fools Fall in Love." The nearly-as-goodies include the Regents' "Runaround," the Slades' original version of "You Cheated" (covered for a bigger hit by the Shields), the Ly-Dells' "Book of Love" knock-off "Wizard of Love," Rick & the Keens' "Peanuts" (better known, perhaps, in its original version by Little Joe & the Thrillers), and the Flamingos' "Lovers Never Say Goodbye." Although much of the rest comes closer to more average, formulaic doo wop, there's at least some enticement for collectors as some of them don't appear on CD anthologies very often, and every track is thoroughly annotated in the liner notes. The most hard-bitten of collectors might want to note that the version of "Don't Take the Stars" by the Mystics is a previously unissued alternate take.
Golden Age of American Rock 'N' Roll: Special Doo Wop Review
by Richie Unterberger