Various Artists

Street Corner Symphonies: The Complete Story of Doo Wop, Vol. 13: 1961

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The 13th volume of Bear Family's ongoing doo wop series kicks off with the Marcels' "Blue Moon," which is one of the handful of doo wop singles instantly recognizable to listeners of any age. This gives the suggestion that the old street-corner sound was still going strong in 1961, but that's not quite the case. Look at the closing song on this 25-track collection for proof: it's Little Caesar & the Romans' "Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me of You)," and those oldies are the earliest doo wop singles, fueled by the sweet, rich harmonies Little Caesar & the Romans explicitly replicate here. It's not the only number nostalgic for the years that came just before, either. Shep & the Limelites croon "Daddy's Home" and the Showmen stake a claim for rock & roll on "It Will Stand," two singles that sound slightly old-fashioned compared to what surrounds them. Here, there are plenty of highly charged, gospel-inflected grooves in the style of Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, dance crazes like "The Watusi," and invigorating novelties like the Regents' "Barbara Ann," but what's really important is the rise of the cool Chicago soul of the Impressions ("Gypsy Woman" is here, and it's a pretty definitive break from doo wop) and, especially, the rise of Motown, heard in part with early singles from the Temptations and the Spinners (their early "That's What Girls Are Made For" sounds like groundwork for smooth soul more than Motown) but flourishing with the Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman." That single was the birth of Motown's Sound of Young America and, heard in context of 1961 as it is here, it's a startling, invigorating step forward. And part of the reason why this series is so valuable is that it can replicate culture shocks like that while doling out plenty of prime hits and worthy cult items, as this satisfying entry surely does.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:16
2 2:28
3 2:30
4 2:53
5 2:41
6 2:27
7 2:34
8 2:15
9 2:02
10 2:17
11 2:20
12 3:03
13 2:45
14 2:22
15 2:11
16 3:00
17 2:18
18 2:20
19 2:20
20 2:39
21 2:17
22 1:52
23 2:18
24 2:22
25 2:45
26 2:43
27 3:09
28
2:56
29 1:44
30 2:43
31 2:06
32 2:30
33 2:21
34 2:20
35 3:27
blue highlight denotes track pick