Hip-O's 2001 release, Street Corner Essentials, intends to showcase many of the greatest doo wop singles of the genre's classic period -- namely the late '50s and early '60s. This doesn't mean just the biggest hits; as a matter of fact, the compilers divide this 50-track, double-disc collection down the middle, devoting the first disc to "The Hits" and the second to "The Rare Sides." Since it primarily draws from the Universal vaults, this doesn't contain every great doo wop side, and there are several songs, such as "Happy Happy Birthday Baby" and "Little Darlin," that aren't represented by the biggest hit versions. And if you want to get technical about it, a bunch of songs toward the end of disc one (and some of disc two) aren't strictly doo wop either, at least by the most rigid definition of the style. That doesn't mean this is a con, though. Hardly. While Rhino's The Doo Wop Box remains the classic summary/introduction to this music and its two sequels get nearly all the other great songs, this is where a lot of listeners -- those who love this music dearly, but aren't obsessive -- should turn next, since even if there is some duplication with that set, it's not that much and the singles on disc one are by and large very good. Then, there's that glorious second disc, which will please those aforementioned fans and the obsessive, since it is song-for-song stronger or equal to the first, and it has the added bonus of all the songs making their U.S. debut on CD. There may not be anything here that is a flat-out knockout, but every one of these rather obscure sides -- some by names as familiar as the Crests with their "16 Candles" sequel "You Blew out the Candles"; some by names quite obscure; and some just plain curiosities, like an early single by Jimmy Castor (later known for such gonzo-funk anthems as "Bertha Butt Boogie" and "Trogolodyte") -- provides great listening for the ferociously dedicated and casual doo wop lover alike. That might not quite make it essential, but Street Corner Essentials still would be welcome in any collection of classic R&B.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2