Various Artists

Swan Records: The Lost Masters, Vol. 1

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Anyone who wonders how Philadelphia could have nearly eclipsed New York as a center for rock & roll need look no further than this 23-song CD of material from the vaults of that city's third-ranked rock & roll label. Swan Records was never as successful as Cameo-Parkway or Chancellor, but it did compete successfully, both locally and nationally (having Dick Clark as a silent partner in the business didn't hurt), and made its mark before disappearing in the mid0'60s. The music here, which isn't even the best that Swan Records ever had to offer, is like something out of a late-'50s rock & roller's dream. The disc is of somewhat dubious origin -- names are spelled incorrectly in the notes -- but it is the first attempt at a raid on the Swan Records vaults, and as such it is extremely worthwhile. Most of the biggest acts on Swan, including Freddie Cannon, got their masters back, and the biggest act whose music they ever released -- the Beatles -- were never really on the label. But the label was home to some solid rock & roll acts and R&B shouters. One group that ought to be better known than they are, based on the evidence contained here, was Gabriel & the Angels. They could have passed for an early Motown act on "Don't Wanna Twist No More," but Gabriel, whoever he was, took that record to some unexpected places. Most of the rest doesn't deliver quite that much, but it's all very credible late-'50s/early-'60s rock & roll, featuring Danny & The Juniors, Dicky Doo & The Dont's, Lee Andrews, and Teddy & the Twilights; two Freddie Cannon numbers are here as well. The first 21 songs here would pass muster on any oldies radio station, and they're not otherwise easy to come by.