Old doo woppers never die it seems - they seem to go one forever, and better yet, they infect younger brethren with the same glorious desire to maintain the craziest part of rock'n'roll.
Doo wop never quite went away, and this excellent new collection samples new and recent recordings from the groups that are keeping the flag flying. Perhaps it is the simplicity of the concept that has kept the genre alive - a group of singers getting up and harmonising together as it was in the old street corner days in the Bronx - with no complicated instrumental parts required. New York collector, producer and Crystal Ball Records boss Ed Engel has assembled this 26 track collection from a variety of acts who have either formed, re-formed or kept going throughout the 80s, 90s and noughties. The tracks here are broadly reflective of the neo-doo wop era of the early 60s, when the classic forms had generous dollops of fun and extra blistering pop harmonies layered on to them.
Uptempo sounds are well represented by the fast opener My Heart from the currently active Del Vikings, the rockin' Symphony Of Love from Frankie & The Fashions, and Moonlight Love from the Emotions. The latter track evokes the best of the late 50s Belmonts sound, which should make it an instant stand out. Fans of the demented bullfrog school of bass singing will also have plenty to delight them, as several cuts feature ever increasing complexities of lip knotting bass lines, none more so than the Crosstones' I've Got A Boy that features a rarer distaff lead. Ballad fans will find a real treat with Blue Star from Nicky Addeo & the Nite Owls, which has Nicky hitting stratospheric falsetto notes, and Ace favourites the Legends Of Doo Wop (check out their own recent CD on Ace CDCHD 824) come up with their wonderful version of Dear Lord.
Doo wop is of course ever popular with younger modern groups, and Germany's Crystalairs show a full range of harmonious talents on the splendid Little Miss Pinocchio, whilst Britain's Roomates are more than equal to the task with their I Know You Cheated. Both of these are strong original songs.
One of the gripes that collectors sometimes have with doo wop is over the predictability of the sometimes limited lyrics, but here this seems to no longer be a problem as several tracks feature much more imaginative writing. The Regals' Detective Of Love namechecks a suitably wide range of fictitious detectives, whilst the Ovations' High School Reunion tells the ever popular tale of musical reminiscing with your old friends. The Ovations, who originally were recorded by Neil Leverson (of Randy & the Rainbows fame), represent the circa '64 era when neo-doo wop was on the wane. Their excellent 1987 Crystal Ball album, from which this track is taken, is apparently due for re-issue soon in the US. The final cut, Echoes From The Tiles from Tuesday At Eight, the only a cappella track here, picks up on the themes from the famed Looking For An Echo song and takes them a bit further - to the extent that the singer is now writing for an oldies magazine!! Perish the thought!
With production values and sound excellent throughout, this collection will do much to further the cause of modern doo wop. As well as the goodies described above, fans will also find new tracks from favourites like the Elegants, the Devotions, the Del Satins, the Quotations, the Mello Kings, Kenny Vance (ex-Jay & The Americans) and many more. What a rockin' good way to start the year!
By Kingsley Abbott