Various Artists

The 60's Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1 [Box Set]

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The independent reissue label Collectables Records concentrates on pop oldies, and, according to the sleeve note to this two-CD, 48-song set, its contents "were chosen, based on listener requests from the top 50 playlists of America's major 'oldies' stations." The "ultimate collection" moniker has become a popular one, but you can't copyright a title, so it is used by anyone who wants to, and in no reasonable sense does this album constitute an ultimate collection of anything, much less the popular music of the 1960s. What it does contain is a collection of chart singles of various sorts from the '60s, sequenced randomly so that, for example, the Crests' "Trouble in Paradise" from 1960 is followed by the Brooklyn Bridge's 1968 hit "The Worst That Could Happen." Of course, a chronological order would be especially useful in listening to music from the '60s, since musical styles changed so drastically in that decade. The odd transitions are made less wrenching musically (those who actually remember the '60s will still be put out) because so much of this music, of whatever year, is light pop. This is a collection that would have you believe there was no British Invasion, and that Motown Records never existed. In fact, of the 30 top singles artists of the decade, only Dion is represented. On the other hand, 15 one-hit wonders are included (i.e., acts that enjoyed only one Top 40 hit, or, in some cases, a sole chart entry), along with lots of performers who didn't do much better. Of the 48 tracks, six were number-one hits, while 35 made the Top Ten. But even Collectables' claim about listener requests rings false: Can the Jive Five's "What Time Is It," which topped out at number 67 in 1962, really be a big listener request item (maybe, among doo wop fans), much less the Blue Jays' sole chart entry, "Lover's Island," which got to number 31 in 1961? In any case, the experience of listening to this album is not unlike tuning in to one of those oldies stations (minus the commercials and the big hits by the big stars), as one song randomly follows another and musical history becomes a hopeless jumble in which, occasionally, an old favorite turns up.

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