Following Ace's first two volumes of The Bert Berns Story by nearly five years, Hang on Sloopy is by design quite light on well-known hits. Those popped up on the earlier volumes, which leaves this to round up interesting covers of signature songs -- the Shirelles do "Twist and Shout," the obscure Latin rock outfit Arsenio makes mincemeat out of "Hang on Sloopy" in 1966 -- and a bunch of very good selections from Berns' catalog. To an extent, this collection of recordings cut between 1960 and 1968 (the great majority date from the middle of the decade) winds up being a testament both for Berns' skills as a writer and how R&B and soul reverberated throughout pop in the '60s. Berns was one of the key writers at the Brill Building who helped clean up R&B for a crossover audience, but he never lost sight of what made R&B click -- or what made it adaptable, either. Here, there's straight uptown R&B from Ben E. King and the Drifters, but there's also the surprisingly thick funk of Freddie Scott, the testifying of Wilson Pickett and Garnet Mimms, and the Isley Brothers copping the Righteous Brothers' Latin lilt on "You Better Come Home," along with the McCoys turning that soul beat into a rock & roll stomp and Lulu pushing "You'll Never Leave Her" into the realm of folk-rock. This wide variety keeps Hang on Sloopy hopping and winds up as a testament to Berns' catalog as well as the kinetic diversity of '60s pop.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine