Various Artists

Heralding the Hits

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In the 1950s and early '60s, the Herald and Ember labels recorded a lot of R&B and rock & roll vocal groups, getting the occasional big hit and putting out lots of singles that eventually got consigned to the small print of doo wop collecting guides. This double-CD anthology collects 50 sides recorded for the companies between 1953 and 1962. A handful of them were big successes: Faye Adams' great 1953 R&B shouter "I'll Be True," the Nutmegs' early doo wop classic "Story Untold," the Turbans' doo wop-cum-rumba "When You Dance," the Five Satins' "To the Aisle," the Silhouettes' "Get a Job," Lee Allen's saxophone instrumental "Walking With Mr. Lee," and Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs' "Stay." The liner notes explain that the Five Satins' "In the Still of the Night" was left off as it's been anthologized so many times elsewhere, which is curious; it's not as if "Get a Job" or "Stay" haven't been over-anthologized either. Because of both their familiarity and, frankly, superior quality, the above-mentioned hits are by far the best selections on a compilation that will appeal almost exclusively to doo wop specialists, due to the inclusion of numerous super-rare recordings, some of the earliest ones being quite primitive and basic in production. Several of the songs are imitative, whether of other artists (Little Butchie Saunders's "Lindy Lou" is obviously emulating Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers) or derivative of the singers' own past hits (Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs' "Come Along" is a pale rehash of "Stay"). Others are competent but unexceptional period R&B and rock & roll, often in the doo wop mold, though sometimes in a more up-tempo rock & roll or (in the earlier sides) jump blues style. On some of the early-'60s cuts that close the collection, you can hear attempts to try and move into more sophisticated early soul, with string arrangements inspired by the likes of the Drifters and the Skyliners. The fidelity on this set is quite variable, and not pristine by any means, though not so erratic as to be a significant annoyance. Two numbers, the Loungers' "Wedding Bells" and the Bobtones' "Running After You," were previously unissued.