The Platters' Complete Federal Recordings". Hands up how many of you long-time collectors just read that sentence and inwardly groaned "oh no, not again". More than a few, I'll bet. But those of you who did should really carry on reading this piece. You may learn something to your advantage.
As instigator and overseer of this particular project, I'd be the first to admit that Probably The Most Famous Doo Wop Group In the World's pre-hit catalogue has been subjected to more than a few reissues down the years. Said reissues have mostly been presented in inferior sound and shoddy packaging, and have done their best to devalue what is actually an important body of work from a major group. After years of being rehashed and raked over in collections that largely reflect their (usually) low price, the Platters' Federal sides finally get what all important works should receive, a deluxe treatment and a packaging/remastering job worthy of their excellence. With notes by world-respected Platters expert Bill Millar and a booklet - full of rare images and even rarer record labels - that fully reflects the importance of these masters, this is a major work in every way.
Largely because they include a prototype (and admittedly inferior) version of the group's breakthrough hit Only You, these Federal recordings have often been summarily dismissed by those who don't really know them - and, indeed, by various members of the Platters themselves - as second rate, pre-fame sides, which don't make it in comparison to the group's Mercury hits. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth: what's on offer here is actually first-rate West Coast doo wop that would have earned the Platters their rightful place in the Group Harmony Hall Of Fame, even if they'd never recorded another note of music. Admittedly - and the early version of Only You notwithstanding - there are no major hits here, but that is not really important when the individual tracks are as good as these mostly are. In the course of our tape research we also found a rehearsal take of Only You that has never been heard before, and that we've included here to delight those collectors who revel in the opportunity to be in at the birth of a classic. Just how generous can one record company be, pray tell?
As well as hearing at least one version of every recording the group made for Federal records in 1953 and 1954, you'll also hear from Platters lead tenor Tony Williams' sister Linda Hayes - whose complete King recordings overlap with the Platters sides, in that several actually feature brother Tony and his colleagues on backing vocals. We're delighted that two of the Hayes numbers heard here - one with the group, one without - were unearthed for the first time in 50 years in the course of preparing the pre-master for this CD. Hidden at the end of the session reel after My Name Ain't Annie and Let's Babalu, the previously undocumented I Just Wanna Mambo and Co-Operating Mama are a worthy addition to Linda's small King discography.
Unlike all previous collections this landmark edition of the Platters' Federal recordings uses only the original master tapes, the first to do so in decades. You will never have heard these recordings in such amazing sound quality that you might feel you're actually standing alongside the group on the floor of Radio Recorders in Los Angeles, so clear and vibrant is it. No matter how many of these tracks you might already possess in one configuration or another, this edition will render all your previous purchases redundant.
As these recordings show, the Platters had their act together right from the start - a little focus and refinement of their skills under the managerial umbrella of Buck Ram and before you could say "Bark, Battle And Bawl" they were the foremost R&B group of the 1950s. There's no more to be said about the Platters' subsequent world-wide success in the 50s and 60s, but these often undervalued and under appreciated sides are as integral to their eventual success as were Elvis' Sun and the Beatles' Polydor recordings. If you've never heard them before, you are doing your ears a great disservice, and one that you should remedy immediately by buying CDCHD 974."
By Tony Rounce