Various Artists

Rolling Back the Years: 1962-1963

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Budget label Prism Leisure's series Rolling Back the Years, each disc treating two years in the history of popular music since 1950, reaches 1962-1963 with its seventh volume. "Some of the tracks featured are live concert performances, or re-recordings made by the soloist or by one or more members of the original group," warns the small-print disclaimer on the back cover, and that is fair warning that for the most part these are not the original recordings. Some of the biggest hits of the period are represented: "Hey! Baby," "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do," "Hey Paula," "Duke of Earl," "Monster Mash," "Stranger on the Shore," "He's So Fine," and "It's My Party," were all chart-toppers. But you never know what you're getting. Neil Sedaka's live recording of "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do," for example, finds the singer performing the slow-tempo arrangement he introduced in the 1970s, leading to a second Top Ten placing for the song in 1976, not the up-tempo 1962 arrangement. Some of the re-recordings attempt to re-create the sound of the originals, but others, with different instrumentation and different singers, sound nothing like the familiar versions. Although the orientation is largely toward American songs and performers, Prism is a British company, which may help explain the inclusion of the Bachelors' "Charmaine," a hit in the U.K. but not the U.S., and Gerry & the Pacemakers' "You'll Never Walk Alone," which topped the British charts in 1963, but was only a minor U.S. chart entry in 1965.