After years of putting out exemplary reissues of classic country, rockabilly, and roots rock material, Germany's Bear Family has tiptoed into the uncharted waters of teen-centric pop/rock of the 1950s and '60s with the The Drugstore's Rockin' series, and Vol. 4 proves that the label is treating these rare sides with the care and enthusiasm that is Bear Family's hallmark. These cuts cover all the bases: rockabilly-lite (Janis Martin's swingin' "Drugstore Rock 'n' Roll"), stepped-up country ("Don't Pretend" by Bobby Edwards and Earl Sinks' "Shake 'Em Up and Let 'Em Roll"), romantic melodrama ("Love at First Sight" by Bobby Louis and "Penny Moved Away" by Barry de Vorzon), moody narratives ("April Avenue" by the post-Buddy Holly Crickets and "Johnny Vagabond" by the memorably named Bonnie Guitar), jazzy dance tunes (Sam Butera's "Bim Bam"), and lots, lots more. While some of these cuts have a high treacle quotient, there's a lot of fine picking to be heard (often featuring some high-powered behind-the-scenes session men), and even the weakest artists on board (bottom of the class would probably be a pre-Dobie Gillis Dwayne Hickman) are miles ahead of the Fabian/Frankie Avalon axis of prefab teen idols. Colin Escott's heroically researched liner notes offer up all the information you could hope for on these artists, and the tunes show that even the square kids knew how to have a pretty good time before drugs, fuzz boxes, and the Beatles turned everything upside down. Big fun, both ironic and otherwise.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming