Various Artists

Rolling Back the Years: 1952-1953

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The second volume in budget label Prism Leisure's 15-disc series surveying the popular music of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s in two-year increments covers 1952-1953, which means that the series' subtitle, "20 Hits From the Rock 'N' Roll Era," doesn't really apply yet. Not that there weren't some early examples of rock & roll in those years, but they weren't pop hits, and they aren't included here. Rather, this is a sampler of pop music (and, to a lesser extent, country music), devoted to such major figures of the period as Perry Como, Patti Page, and Eddie Fisher. Note that, although Prism is a British company and this collection was assembled for U.K. distribution (while nevertheless being easily available stateside), it really reflects American pop. Every record reproduced here reached the Top 20 of the U.S. pop or country charts, and while many of them were also British hits, some even bigger across the Atlantic than at home (for example, Kay Starr's "Comes A-Long A-Love" and Frankie Laine's "I Believe"), many were not hits in Britain. The set is hardly definitive, including, for example, only four of the 26 number one pop hits of the 24-month period. But it is a representative sampling of a period in American popular music long on novelties, short on memorable new songs, heavily influenced by country music, and employing innovative arrangements of standards (Peggy Lee's "Lover," Kay Starr's "Side by Side").