This CD is essential listening, and not just for doo wop fans or fans of the Valentines -- running through it, you can also hear the sonic and stylistic model that Valentines member Richard Barrett used (in tandem with house bandleader Jimmy Wright) when he brought Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers into the recording studio to cut their first record in 1956. Just on its own terms, this CD has 15 of the best songs ever cut in the doo wop genre, running the gamut from driving rhythm numbers to elegant ballads ("Twenty Minutes," "Don't Say Goodnight"). Six of them -- "Lily Maebelle," "I'll Never Let You Go," "The Joe Smith Theme," "Sweetheart of Mine," "I Love You Darling," and "Woo Woo Train" -- are worth the price of the disc by themselves, viscerally exciting sides that radiate a joy on the part of the singers and players 50 years later. Among the sidemen, saxophonist Jimmy Wright outdid himself with the screaming, soaring sax solo on "Woo Woo Train." The mid-tempo dance ballad "K-I-S-S Me" offers a hot band sound against a sultry singing of the group and a seductively playful lyric; Wright and his guitar player also make their presence felt in a tasteful yet bracing manner on the stunningly haunting ballad "I Love You Darling"; and the achingly beautiful ballad "Falling for You" displays a purity of conception and arrangement that anticipates the sound that Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers would achieve in the studio. The tie-in between the two groups is even closer than that -- in addition to bringing Barrett and the Valentines into the orbit of label owner George Goldner, "Lily Maebelle" was the song with which the Teenagers first attracted the attention of Barrett, who brought the newer group to Goldner. In all, anyone who owns any Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers compilation should own this disc as well, even if they know nothing about the Valentines.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder