Various Artists

Playin' Hard to Get: West Coast Girls

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Playin' Hard to Get assembles 28 girl group singles recorded for singing cowboy Gene Autry's Challenge label -- though best known for the Champs' chart-topping instrumental rave-up "Tequila," Challenge was one of the more diverse West Coast labels of the early rock & roll era, with a roster spanning from surf to garage rock. None of its girl singers troubled the upper rungs of the pop charts, but this is good stuff nonetheless -- far and away the most interesting material here comes from the Blossoms, featuring lead singer Darlene Wright, better known by her Phil Spector-stamped moniker, Darlene Love. The most soulful and powerful vocalist of the girl group generation, Wright is in exceptional form even on these early Blossoms sides -- "Write Me a Letter" and "I'll Wait" are lost classics. Also noteworthy is the lovely Donna Loren, whose cheeky "Muscle Bustle" shares Beach Boy Brian Wilson, Gary Usher, and Roger Christian as its co-writers.

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