Various Artists

Hit Parade 1954

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This is a pretty fair representation of what popular music had become on the eve of the birth of rock & roll as a popular phenomenon. Amid established artists such as Kay Starr, Nat King Cole, Kitty Kallen, and Tony Bennett are such upstart performers as Bill Haley (making his first lasting national impact with "Shake, Rattle & Roll," and artists such as the Crew Cuts ("Sh-Boom"), starting to put forth music that's got a more distinctly youthful thrust. There's lots of schmaltz here, most especially Eddie Fisher's "Oh! My Pa-Pa," and Tony Bennett's "Stranger in Paradise" -- the Bill Haley track in the midst of all of that vocal pop is the musical equivalent of a slightly tipsy, swaggering, and seemingly uncouth interloper at an otherwise fairly sedate party; and anyone who wasn't around for this particular pop culture party will get a pretty good idea of precisely how much of an impact "Shake, Rattle & Roll" had on the world of music in Haley's hands from listening to this CD; it just makes you want to jump up and dance. There's no annotation, but the story sort of tells itself, and the sound is good, too. And rock & roll fans who grew up with the Jay & the Americans' version of "Cara Mia" may marvel at what seems like the ultra-slow rendition by David Whitfield and Mantovani.

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