All good things must come to an end. Thus it is with tears in our eyes and handkerchiefs in hand that, this month, we bring the curtain down on our series of pairings of the Shirelles’ original Scepter albums. We’d love it to have continued for longer but, unfortunately for us all, the girls just did not release enough long players to make that happen. If you’re looking for someone to blame for that, blame Florence Greenberg – Scepter was her label, not ours.
Few big (or small) girl groups of the 1960s could have achieved the level of success that they did without the pioneering work of Shirley Alston, Micki Harris, Doris Coley and Beverly Lee. The conclusion of the series is with two very rare albums, neither of which has ever been on CD before. Just three years separated the original vinyl release dates of “Sing The Golden Oldies” and the (mostly) live set “Spontaneous Combustion” but both have been out of print for more than 40 years, so it’s a really special pleasure to be the first to welcome them to the digital age. Unlike the girls other albums, neither contains major hits – but equally unlike the others, both offer specific concepts. Both are among the most prized long players among Shirelles collectors the world over.
As you might expect, “Golden Oldies” concentrates heavily (but not exclusively) on the doo wop classics that the teenage Shirley, Micki, Doris and Beverly would harmonise when school was out in their Passaic, NJ hometown in the late 50s. “Spontaneous Combustion”, meanwhile, captures significant moments from a live club date in early 1967 and features an altogether more adult group of ladies, laughing and clowning with their audience and singing up a storm as they always did. While the ‘fi’ is not always as ‘hi’ as it might be, live recordings of upper echelon R&B acts from the 60s are far from commonplace and “Spontaneous Combustion” is to be treasured on that basis. As ever, the music is backed up by a booklet that’s chock full of label shots and significant ephemera, and that boasts a sleeve note by Shirelles authority-and-friend Dennis Garvey.
This CD is bringing the 2-On-1 series to a close, but we have grand finale in store that will delight every hard-core Shirelles fan. A very recent trawl of the Scepter vaults has yielded enough rare stereo mixes and completely unissued tracks (including many wonderful studio sides and the rest of the “Spontaneous Combustion” show) to put together a CD of almost entirely unheard material. This is scheduled for release in early 2011 – we’ll let you know what’s going to be on it, as soon as we are able to decide ourselves.
By Tony Rounce