The second volume of this series from Ace Records continues to present the original versions -- usually, though not always, rare and little known even to collectors -- of songs that became hits during the first 15 years or so of rock music. It doesn't matter how big your record collection is -- you couldn't have possibly heard all of the 24 tracks here, though you might well have heard all of the songs in their most famous incarnations. There's an interesting story behind each of these items (detailed thoroughly in the accompanying liner notes), but some of these are mindblowers that few suspected even existed, like Pino Donaggio's Italian-language original of Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me"; a 1939 South African recording on which "Wimoweh" and hence "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" were based; the Four Voices' smooth "Sealed with a Kiss," later a smash for Brian Hyland; Bobby Parker's "You've Got What It Takes," which preceded Marv Johnson's early proto-soul version; and the original of "I'm Your Puppet" by Dan Penn, far more known as a songwriter than a singer. The compilers are remarkably catholic in their taste, going from hardcore soul (the Dells' prototype of Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher" ) to the Greenbriar Boys' bluegrass arrangement of Mike Nesmith's "Different Drum" (the same song as the Stone Poneys' hit) and the Corporation's "Candida" (bet you didn't know the Dawn hit was a cover). Some of these recordings are relatively well known, but that doesn't take away from the pleasure and novelty of hearing the Great Society's "Someone to Love" (reworked by Jefferson Airplane, with the same singer, as "Somebody to Love"), Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" (taken into the Top Ten by Nilsson), James Ray's early soul single "I Got My Mind Set on You" (covered about 25 years later by George Harrison), and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' "Shakin' All Over" (huge in the U.K., but a hit in North America for the Guess Who). Some of these were even later reworked by the artist himself, James Brown's "I Don't Care" providing some of "Cold Sweat," and Tony Joe White's "Old Man Willis" turning into "Polk Salad Annie." Even some cuts you don't think would be too remarkable turn out to be quite worthwhile, like the Outsiders' original of "Bend Me, Shape Me." Hugely educational, the CD's also consistently enjoyable and diverse, just what the doctor ordered for the classic rock fan who doesn't want another stale oldies hour on the radio.
You Heard It Here First, Vol. 2 Review
by Richie Unterberger