Various Artists

Rolling Back the Years: 1960-1961

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The sixth of 15 entries in budget label Prism Leisure's Rolling Back the Years series, covering the first two years of the 1960s, finds popular music softening up considerably. Where previous volumes have been dominated by the likes of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley, the hardest rocking artist here is probably Chubby Checker, and there is a heavy complement of pop ballads, some, such as "Running Bear" and "Tell Laura I Love Her," of a maudlin and even morbid turn. Added to the disappointing nature of the material is the secondary nature of these recordings. A disclaimer on the back cover that sounds like it was written by a lawyer (and that was printed to be read with a magnifying glass) reads, "Some of the tracks are live concert performances, or re-recordings made by the soloist or by one or more members of the original group." In fact, most of these are not the original recordings. As if that wasn't enough to dismiss the album entirely, this is also the first album in the series in which Prism, a British company, has oriented the selection more to U.K. artists. The songs are still mostly of American origin, but some of them are being performed by the English cover singers who copied the American hits, such as Ricky Valence, Billy Fury, and Danny Williams, names mostly unknown to U.S. listeners. (Helen Shapiro, another Brit, actually got to number 100 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Walkin' Back to Happiness," but she did much better with it in the U.K.) All told, this is a sorry excuse for a historical compilation of the early '60s.