Various Artists

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

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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 Stream
1 The Marcels 02:16 Amazon
2 Lovers Dream / The Dreamlovers 02:28 Amazon
3 The Marvelettes 02:30 Amazon
4 Shep & the Limelites 02:53 Amazon
5 Dion 02:41 Amazon
6 Gene Chandler 02:27 Amazon
7 The Jive Five 02:34 Amazon
8 The Regents 02:15 Amazon
9 The Pips 02:02 Amazon
10 The Stereos 02:17 Amazon
11 The Impressions 02:20 Amazon
12 The Sensations 03:03 Amazon
13 Sheppard / The Sheppards 02:45 Amazon
14 The Flares 02:22 Amazon
15 The Jarmels 02:11 Amazon
16 The Corsairs 03:00 Amazon
17 The Drifters 02:18 Amazon
18 The Dovells 02:20 Amazon
19 The Blue Jays 02:20 Amazon
20 The Vibrations 02:39 Amazon
21 The Larks 02:17 Amazon
22 The Cleftones 01:52 Amazon
23 The Chantels 02:18 Amazon
24 The Showmen 02:22 Amazon
25 The Valadiers 02:45 Amazon
26 Hank Ballard & the Midnighters 02:43 Amazon
27 The Spinners 03:09 Amazon
The Halos 02:56 Amazon
29 The Tokens 01:44 Amazon
30 The Temptations 02:43 Amazon
31 The Velvets 02:06 Amazon
32 The Crystals 02:30 Amazon
33 The Rollers 02:21 Amazon
34 The Carnations 02:20 Amazon
35 Little Caesar & the Romans 03:27 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick