VARIOUS: Starry-Eyed Serenaders (Fantastic Voyage)

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With Valentines Day looming, old romantics out there looking for something a little different to woo their paramours with could do worse than look at this 2CD, 50 track compilation from reissue specialists Fantastic Voyage. The collection is made up of out-of-copyright material and covers 1955 – 1962 …. the Golden Age of Rock and Roll and, more importantly, the period that saw the birth of Soul. Consequently the set’s packed with lots and lots of vintage, early soul and doo-wop balladeering from the likes of The Clovers, The Rays and The Robins. Biggest names amongst the many featured groups are Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Platters, the Moonglows and the Drifters. Anthony’s contribution is the sweet 1958 ballad ‘Two People In The World; the Platters offer ‘On My Word Of Honour’ –a classic slice of doo-wop that was oddly covered by B B King; the Moonglows’ track is their 1959 Chess outing ‘I’ll Stop Waiting’ and though Harvey Fuqua’s in there, the sleeve notes fail to say whether this recording featured the very young Marvin Gaye; the Drifters’ cut is the 1959 Benjamin Nelson-led ‘Oh My Love’ (Nelson of course was soon to change his name to Ben E King).

Solo-wise, the biggest names in the context of embryonic  soul are Bo Diddley and Big Maybelle. Odd maybe to have Diddley on a love compilation but here he offers a lovely, lilting ‘I’m Sorry’ – co-written with Harvey Fuqua and interesting to see that “Mr Payola”, DJ Alan Freed, insists on a writing credit too. More dramatic is Big Maybelle’s soulful reading of ‘I Don’t Want To Cry’ (a 1957 Scepter Recording, by the way). Great stuff, and though the collection also boasts a sprinkling of early Brill Building pop ( like Neil Sedaka’s ‘You Mean Everything To Me’) the set’s a wonderful homage to an age when romance really was romantic… musically at least.

(BB) 4/5