Various Artists

It All Started with Doo Wop

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Time was when doo wop collections flooded the market -- baby boomers looking to relive their childhoods scarfed up millions of them and record companies were happy to oblige, as the material was relatively inexpensive to license. Today, those who fondly remember the '50s and early '60s are largely in their fifties and early sixties, and while they might still harbor a soft spot for the oldies, they most likely own their favorites on CD by now or at least know of a satellite radio station that plays the stuff. Time Life is the master at aggressive marketing to that demographic, though, and also the master at finding just the right tracks for these types of compilations. Label execs must have done their homework if they decided at this late date to release nine CDs' and a DVD's worth of vocal harmony music (the term preferred by hardcore doo woppers) -- someone figured there was a still a strong market for this music and set out to do it right. They succeeded wildly. It All Started with Doo Wop may just be the single most definitive collection of this music compiled into one box set. It's not that these songs can't all be found elsewhere -- this isn't about rarities (plenty of other comps will get you those). It's about the best of the best. The four actual two-CD sets falling under the banner of It All Started with Doo Wop miss few of the all-time classics. From the ballads like "Could This Be Magic" by the Dubs, "Gloria" by the Cadillacs, "Just to Be with You" by the Passions, and "Lovers Never Say Goodbye" by the Flamingos to the classic uptempo rockers like Curtis Lee's "Pretty Little Angel Eyes," "Yakety Yak" by the Coasters, "Church Bells May Ring" by the Willows, and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers' "I Promise to Remember," this is as solid a set of doo wop as any out there. Some may argue whether groups like the Four Seasons and Jay & the Americans or individuals such as Jackie Wilson and solo Dion actually qualify as doo wop, but their records sound just fine in the context of the set, hardly something to complain about. The ninth/tenth discs, titled Street Corner Symphonies, aren't really anything different than the others, adding in still more classics like "Remember Then" by the Earls, "Get a Job" by the Silhouettes, "Come Go with Me" by the Del Vikings, "Book of Love" by the Monotones, and more than two dozen others. The DVD is a fun little bonus, but can get depressing, featuring live performances of recent vintage by acts (some containing at most one or two original members) such as the Cleftones, the Penguins, the Jive Five, and others. It aired as a PBS fundraiser and is reprised here courtesy of Rhino Home Video. While some of the performances are stirring, others only serve as a reminder that this music has now been around for a very, very long time -- as have those who made it happen.

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