Time-Life Music's series The Heart of Rock 'n' Roll has focused on the soft side of the rock era in volumes dating back to 1956 and, with this ninth volume, up to 1964, the year most closely associated with the British Invasion led by the Beatles. Much of that invasion consisted of up-tempo music that would be out of place here, although hits like the Beatles' "And I Love Her" and Gerry and the Pacemakers' "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," neither of which were included, would have completed the picture; as it is, British acts are MIA except for Chad and Jeremy with "A Summer Song." Nevertheless, other major trends in the pop music of 1964 are well covered, starting with Motown and crossover R&B in general, as Mary Wells, the Supremes, Jerry Butler (in a duet with Betty Everett) and the Impressions all turn in memorable performances. The continuing impact of the Brill Building songwriters is attested to by songs from its major practitioners Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill (Gene Pitney's "I'm Gonna Be Strong"), Burt Bacharach and Hal David (Dionne Warwick's "Walk on By"), Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (with Phil Spector on the Dixie Cups' "Chapel of Love"), and Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman (Elvis Presley soundalike Terry Stafford's "Suspicion") as well as other Tin Pan Alley standards by less-well-known songwriters ("Under the Boardwalk," "Goin' Out of My Head"). And speaking of standards, there are R&B covers of earlier country and pop evergreens "Funny" (aka the Willie Nelson composition "Funny How Time Slips Away") and "Let It Be Me." A few curiosities and one-hit wonders fill out the disc, but they only add period flavor to a strong collection of material that transcends the year of its initial popularity and demonstrates there was more to 1964 than just the Beatles.
The Heart of Rock 'N' Roll: 1964 Review
by William Ruhlmann