THE COOKIES: Chains – The Dimension Links (Label: RPM)
Femme trio, the Cookies are best known in Europe for cutting the original version of ‘Chains’ – a wonderful Goffin/King song covered with a real conviction by the Beatles on their very first LP. Stateside and amongst serious collectors the Cookies’ name means an awful lot more. Dorothy Jones, Beulah Robertson and Ethel “Darlene” McCrea had formed the group in the mid-fifties in Coney Island and after a second place at the famed Harlem Apollo talent show (Joe Tex won that night, by the way!) they were brought to the attention of the New York music community. Signed by Jesse ‘Shake Rattle And Roll’ Stone, they made a few singles and sang numerous back ups – including plenty at Atlantic with Ray Charles who eventually persuaded them to go on the road with him. Jones (who was pregnant) refused the offer so McRae and “new” Cookie Margie Hendrix went off to become Raeletts. Then in 1960, top Brill Building writer and artist Neil Sedaka contacted Dorothy Jones to see if the Cookies were still in business… he wanted reliable session vocalists for his New York hit factory. Dorothy, therefore, recruited Margaret Ross and Earl-Jean McCrae and Cookies #2 were born – primarily as session singers. In ’62 Sedaka and partner Don Kirshner founded the Dimension label and though the girls were still seen as backing singers (remember ‘Don’t Play That Song’, ‘The Locomotion’, ‘It Might As Well Rain Until September’ etc?), they got to record under their own name too with ‘Chains’ hitting the top 20 in 1962. Encouraged, their management furnished them with the best tunes the Brill Building writers could produce. So, the Cookies were allowed to offer their own distinctive versions of pop-soul classics like ‘Foolish Little Girl’, ‘On Broadway’ and other great, yet lesser-known confections from the pens of writers like Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Janie Bradford and Howard Greenfield. To complicate matters the girls also recorded under other names – notably the Cinderellas, the Honey Bees and the Palisades while Dorothy McCrae – after quitting the Raeletts – recorded solo, as too did sister Earl-Jean McCrae who cut the original version of ‘I’m Into Something Good’ (remember Herman’s Hermits’ pallid cover?). All the above mentioned cuts and many more are all included on this wonderful 24 track collection of the work of the Cookies and various off-spins between 1962 and 1964. It’s a fine testament to a hugely underrated group and to the talents of the Brill Building writers and producers… a must for collectors of 60s soul and pop.