Various Artists

The Heart of Rock 'N' Roll: 1957

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Time-Life's The Heart of Rock 'n' Roll series is dedicated to the softer sounds of rock & roll, as heard primarily in the pop charts of the 1950s and '60s. Casting across record labels (the imprints represented here are Cadence, Capitol, Checker, Chess, Columbia, Coral, Decca, Dot, Ember, Gone, Liberty, Mercury, RCA, and Verve, which means all six major labels in existence in 1995 were involved in the licensing), the collections aim at excluding uptempo rock material on the one hand and traditional pop on the other. Elvis Presley, the top star of 1957, doesn't seem to have been available to the compilers of this volume, but of his big hits for the year, only "Love Me" would have fit the concept. Meanwhile, both Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra were among the year's 20 top singles artists, but neither would have been appropriate to the collection. The type of artists who are appropriate, it turns out, are country crossover acts Patsy Cline, Ferlin Husky, Sonny James, Jim Reeves, and Marty Robbins; teen idols Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson; country-rockers Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers; and vocal groups Lee Andrews & the Hearts, the Diamonds, the Dubs, the Five Satins, the Platters, the Tune Weavers, and Billy Ward & His Dominoes. The compilers stick almost exclusively to the hits; every track here except Buddy Holly's "Words of Love" made the Top 40 (a version of that song by the Diamonds, not included here, did make number 13, however), 12 reached the Top Ten, and James' "Young Love," Boone's "Love Letters in the Sand," and Johnny Mathis' "Chances Are" (included here in phony stereo) hit number one. The mail-order-only collection is restricted to only 20 tracks and 51 minutes, which makes it a bit pricey, especially when shipping and handling are included. There are certainly other songs that might have been included -- notably Debbie Reynolds' "Tammy" and Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," both of which hit number one during the year -- but the softer side of rock & roll in 1957 is generally well represented.