The definitive girl-group collection remains little more than wishful thinking, but the two-disc Leaders of the Pack: The Very Best of the 60s Girls comes far closer to perfection than most, assembling 50 vintage singles that together create a roughly complete portrait of an era that elevated the popular song to the realm of high art. Unlike most girl-group compilations, Leaders of the Pack takes pains to license material from Motown, Atlantic, and Phil Spector's Philles label instead of relying on the cheaper, more accessible hits that typically dominate these proceedings -- likewise, the parameters are expanded to include selections from singers like Astrud Gilberto ("The Girl From Ipanema") and Nina Simone ("I Put a Spell on You"), neither the stereotypical beehive-and-miniskirt chanteuse but each a pivotal force in '60s pop music. Compiled by Universal's U.K. division, the set logically enough boasts a more Anglo-centric slant than most, with appearances from Top of the Pops favorites like Helen Shapiro ("Walkin' Back to Happiness") and Sandie Shaw ("There's Always Something There to Remind Me") -- its flaws can be chalked up in large part to personal tastes (the Chiffons' "He's So Fine" and "Sweet Talkin' Guy" are both included, for example, but their masterpiece "One Fine Day" isn't), but there are enough significant omissions worth quibbling over to dock the collection a point or two. Still, until that definitive girl-group comp finally does appear, this one's a worthy substitute.
AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny
Track Listing - Disc 1