Various Artists

Then 3: Totally Oldies

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This 18-song compilation might not have as much of an identity as other 1950s rock anthologies, and although the running time is generous, it's not the most comprehensive either in the post-box-set era. Yet as such things go, it's very good, cramming in a bunch of oldies that are both familiar high-charting items and, for the most part, classics of the early rock era. The cream of the roll call includes Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire," the Everly Brothers' "Wake up Little Susie," Ritchie Valens' "Donna," Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City," Bobby Day's "Rockin' Robin," the Shirelles' "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" (the sole track to date from as late as 1960), Jerry Butler's "He Will Break Your Heart," the Penguins' "Earth Angel," Little Richard's "Good Golly, Miss Molly," Frankie Ford's "Sea Cruise," the Skyliners' "Since I Don't Have You," the Isley Brothers' "Shout" (both parts), Dee Clark's "Hey Little Girl" -- well, gee, that's actually about most of the CD. It's like catching a particularly good stretch of oldies radio without any commercial breaks. Teen idols are represented by Frankie Avalon's "Venus," instrumentals by the Champs' "Tequila," and adult pop/rock by the Chordettes' "Lollipop." Just one song could be considered relatively little-played on oldies stations, the Tarriers' calypso folk-pop cover of "Banana Boat Song," though that was actually quite a smash in its day, reaching number four. The liner notes give a lengthy paragraph or so on each song, which is certainly better-than-average documentation by the standards of these collections.