Various Artists

The Chancellor Records Story, Vol. 1-2

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These two 18-song compilations should have been called "The Best of Chancellor Records," because they aren't remotely comprehensive (as in telling the label's "story"), but they do have the songs that people remember and the material that should have sold. Additionally, one disc isn't much good without the other, the producers having divided the hits and the history between the two volumes. Thus, the hits of Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Claudine Clark are spread among the two separate volumes. One does get a decent cross-section of their hits, as well as some very good (though non-hit) singles by the likes of Cozy Morley, Jodie Sands, Joe Damiano, Maureen Gray, Johnny Burnette, the Five Satins, and the Hearts. Even the label's early efforts have an engaging quality that makes this compilation less of a mish-mash of styles and phases of development than one usually expects. One has to listen to both discs to get a perspective on the careers of Frankie Avalon and Fabian, who come off rather better in the listening than they're usually treated in historic accounts of the period. The reissue producers have also included such oddities as Chancellor co-founder Peter DeAngelis's European instrumental hit "Happy Mandolin." Taragon's notes consist of an interview with Chancellor Records co-founder Bob Marcucci which runs from one disc's booklet to the other's, and gives a fair perspective on the company's history, though one wishes it ran longer and probed deeper. The sound is good, even occasionally dazzling, and the selection, if not properly assembled for the history, is entertaining. A 40-song box with a serious booklet might have been a better idea, particularly considering Chancellor's importance to '50s and early-'60s rock & roll.