(1995/Rhino-Collectors' Choice) 76 Tracks - Doo-Wop collector's dream set from the Atlantic master tapes 1951-1958!
Let me catch my breath. "The Great Atlantic Vocal Groups"...oh boy. Finally.
Well, I'd better check myself; "finally" isn't really the best choice of words. It's not like there's been a dearth of digi-tal reissues of many of the best Atlantic group records; the wonderful "Atlantic Rhythm & Blues" box set, and some fine compilations on the Clovers, Drifters and Coasters on both Atlantic and Rhino cover the primary stuff pretty well. So what's the big deal here?
The big deal is that thanks to the good graces of Rhino/Atlantic, we were able to program 50 tracks on one collection devoted exclusively to showcasing the breadth of Atlantic's magnificent doo-wop catalog. We didn't want to attempt a "Best of Atlantic Vocal Groups"—there was-n't a real need to. Nor did we want to compile "Atlantic Doo-Wop Rarities" and appeal to perhaps 38 people. Basically, we merged the two ideas—some familiar hits, some sought-after rarities and a few previously unreleased sides, um, to boot—and tried to program the CDs to be both interesting and enjoyable.
Of course, the "enjoyable" part is redundant, I suppose, no matter how we would have sequenced or selected the tracks. As Peter Grendysa, the premier Atlantic collector on Earth (and New York) writes in his overview of Atlantic's vocal group history, the label's standards were so high that the quality of even their minor vocal group releases were a notch or two above the rest of the field. I'm prejudiced, of course, but I can't figure out why every single cut on the package wasn't a hit.
The big ones—"Money Honey," "Sh-Boom," "One Mint Julep" and more—are here because they're so good they can stand repeated playing 40 years after they were recorded, and were so much a part of Atlantic's success story in the '50s. So too the most sought-after cuts by Atlantic's incredible "second tier" groups like the Cardinals, Diamonds, Royal Jokers and Sensations. And last but certainly not least, the real reason I used the word "finally" at the top: we finally found a place to issue some unreleased gems we've been sitting on for a couple of years now—and that's a story unto itself.
It was a dark and stormy night...no, it was a warm, sunny afternoon, if I recall correctly, and Messrs. Bill Inglot (of Rhino), "Little Walter" DeVenne (my usual partner in crime) and myself were going through the Atlantic tape vaults in Manhattan, looking for Coasters tapes for Rhino's then-impending anthology. Conscious of the stories that had been endlessly told and re-told concerning how many of the original Atlantic tapes had been lost in a fire, we were somewhat surprised to find, among other things, the original multitracks to many of the Coasters sessions—hence the inclusion here of "Zing! Went the Strings," one of their more doo-wopish efforts, in newly remixed first-time stereo. But the real surprise came towards the end of the afternoon. Walter was walking by a long line of piled up garbage of all shapes and sizes, and spotted—wonder of wonders—some disc-like objects at the bottom of one of the sections of the pile. Some rare old Atlantic 78s or LPs, perhaps? Naaaaah... they were just some old acetates of long-lost recording sessions by some guys called the Drifters, Chords and Playboys (I think we both had trouble breathing at that particular moment). Rescued instantaneously from the clutches of the New York City Department of Sanitation, said discs were cleaned up and digitally copied post-haste, the results of which (well, partially at least...heh, heh) can be found herein.
I could go on and on, but most of it would be mindless blithering—and besides, Peter can more than hold his own. All of us involved with the project have been wear-ing grins in anticipation of this collection for a couple of months now, and we hope you get as much enjoyment out of it as we have.