Various Artists

Norfolk Rock & Roll Sound

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If you want to hear the most successful and best Frank Guida productions, you've got to start with the best-of compilations for Gary U.S. Bonds and Jimmy Soul before working your way down to this one. This CD focuses, instead, on the rarer and more obscure tracks he produced, with just a couple of songs apiece from Soul and Bonds (and even the Bonds items here are previously unissued outtakes, including an alternate of his hit "New Orleans"). With the exception of a 1954 doo wop single by the Five Sheiks (Guida's first production) and a distracting 1976 urban contemporary tune by the Soul Cop, virtually all of the material is from the early 1960s, when Guida was at the peak of his powers. Sure this is erratic, and not everything has that murky soul-R&B sound that Guida perfected with Bonds, but it's worth hearing if you're intrigued by Guida's "Norfolk" sound, or if you're accumulating a deep dish of early soul music in general. The performers are energetic, and the Legrand house band who played with Bonds and Soul is on most of the cuts. It's the material, not unexpectedly, which comes off unfavorably when compared to the Bonds and Soul hits; it's passable and likable, yet not captivating. Jimmy Soul's "Go 'Way Christina" and the double-entendre "My Baby Loves to Bowl" are among the top tunes, but those are on Rhino's best-of Jimmy Soul comp. The Rockmasters do a fair Ruby & the Romantics knockoff; Linda Carter's ballad "Up the Aisle (Just You and I)" sounds like the tape was dipped into a soapy bathtub; Garland Owens' "Hula Wobble Shake," with its absurd "gooma gooma gooma shoombah" backup chants, is Gary U.S. Bonds gone Hawaiian; and Lilly Russell's "Paper Doll" sounds a little like Ronnie Spector might have if she'd ended up with Guida instead of Phil Spector. Seven of these 24 tracks are also on Varese Sarabande's If You Wanna Be Happy: The Best of the Norfolk Sound, but if you want to target the rarities exclusively, this one has a wider, more off-the-wall range.

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