Various Artists

Rarest of the Rare: The Girl Groups, Vol. 1

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The title of this 25-track compilation might be misinterpreted by some fans. These are indeed female singers (all of them groups except for three solo artists), the recordings are rare, and they do date, seemingly, from the early- to mid-'60s girl group era. It's not girl group rock, though, in the Shirelles, Ronettes, or Shangri-Las sense that many think of as typifying the genre. Instead, it's far more doo wop-influenced, to the point where some of the earlier-sounding cuts could just about qualify as actual doo wop music. More often, however, it falls in the hazy cracks between doo wop and early soul, sounding closer in spirit to, say, the Delfonics, Dells, or very early Miracles than the Crystals or the Dixie Cups (the Dorelles' brassy, uptempo "Good Luck to the Lucky Girl" comes about the closest to the more mainstream girl group sound). There's enough of a proto-sweet soul feel to some of the selections to make one suspect that a good deal of this originated in the Philadelphia (or at least East Coast) area, though as there are absolutely no liner notes and original release date and label information in the minimal packaging, it's impossible to say for sure. None of these artists had hits or are even recognized on a cult level; one of the tracks is even previously unreleased, and credited to "Unknown." Is the music as good as it is rare? No, though it's acceptably well performed and sincere in spirit for those who go for the doo wop-into-soul genre in a big way. What separated these records from the hit parade was not so much the singing and harmonies -- which are usually pretty good -- as the songs, which aren't exceptionally memorable. The production can be rather crude, too, which is rather endearing, though it's done no favors by the erratic and sometimes thin transfer (most likely taken from vinyl) of these rarities to CD.

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