Over the past few years Ace Records have done a wonderful job reissuing the Shirelles’ back catalogue. In the early sixties the girls, of course, were hugely successful Stateside and in the UK their work was regularly plundered by the beat brigade. Spectacularly led by Shirley Owens, the Shirelles not only defined the classic girl group sound but also the distaff side of early Uptown soul. Equally, they paved the way for the likes of the Supremes and countless other wannabee girl groups. But their early success – oddly – brought them into conflict with their record company boss – the redoubtable Florence Greenberg of Scepter. It’s claimed that the hard-bitten entrepreneur withheld royalties from the girls that had accrued to them via the success of classics like ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’. The girls’ response was simple – they went on strike. Undeterred, Ms. Greenberg trawled her vault and cobbled together two albums which she issued to keep the group’s name up there in the headlines… and it’s those two albums – 1964’s ‘Swing The Most’ and ‘Hear And Now’ that are the basis of this Ace album. Issued on Scepter’s budget label, Pricewise, it’s clear that Greenberg considered the albums little more than pot boilers till new material could be recorded. However in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. When the 23 tracks were recorded the Shirelles were at the top of their game; Shirley Owens was in her high pomp and the Scepter producers had trawled the famed Brill Building for the very best songs. Writing credits here read like a songwriters’ who’s who of the early sixties – Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Howard Greenfield, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Luther Dixon, Toni Wine, Ed Townsend, Cynthia Weil and Van McCoy amongst them. Highlights abound – notably the original versions of ‘Oh No Not My Baby’, ‘Get Rid Of Him’ and ‘Sha-La-La’ – one those Brit-plundered songs (a hit for Manfred Mann of course). As good are ‘What A Sweet Thing That Was’, ‘His Lips Get In The Way’ and ‘Foolish Little Girl. Sure, the songs speak of a different era … an age of superficial sweetness, innocence and prom night romance but the soundscape in which it’s all wrapped is totally delightful and in Shirley Owens (now Shirley Alston Reeves) we have one soul voice that deserves wider recognition.