Here’s a great way to start the New Year. Ace’s Golden Age of American Rock’n’Roll series has proven to be extremely successful, having featured most of the significant records of the 1954-1963 era across its 11 volumes. Then there’s the sidebar strand of Special Editions covering Doo Wop, Novelty Records, Bubbling Under and Country. Now comes the latest theme, Follow Ups Hits.
Among the rockin’ highlights are teenage Bobby Freeman’s gloriously dumb Betty Lou Got A New Pair Of Shoes, a pounding rocker heavily influenced by Little Richard that danced into the Top 40 in 1958; Penny Loafers And Bobby Socks by Joe Bennett & the Sparkletones from the same year, an even better record than their hit debut Black Slacks; the raw-almost-to-the-point-of-punk Dance To The Bop, one of several Gene Vincent performances featured in the low-budget exploitation movie Hot Rod Gang; and The Bluebird, The Buzzard And The Oriole by Bobby Day, a song so similar to his previous hit, Rockin’ Robin, that it’s hard to tell where one starts the other ends. The Olympics’ (I Wanna) Dance With The Teacher was not a doppelganger for their previous hit, although it did serve as a model for several of their ensuing dance craze successes like Hully Gully and Baby, Do The Philly Dog.
As you’d expect from anything carrying the Golden Age brand, there is plenty of variety, so there are some great less up-tempo moments too, like Shy Girl, a gorgeous 1963 slowie by harmony specialists the Cascades; smoky-voiced Sammy Turner’s revival of Irving Berlin’s Always, built around a wonderful sax riff by King Curtis; This I Swear by the Skyliners, featuring Jimmy Beaumont, one of the most soulful blue-eyed vocalists of his time; and Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta by Ernie K-Doe, a tremendous Sam Cooke soundalike. K-Doe’s New Orleans compatriots Shirley & Lee enjoyed a long run of R&B hits, but very few of these crossed over to the pop market. One that did was I Feel Good, which followed their greatest hit Let The Good Times Roll into the Top 40 in 1956.
The most successful record of almost all of the artists featured on this CD is contained on the main Golden Age series (and the three that aren’t can be found on other Ace comps). Most Ace buffs worth his or her salt will know those 30 biggies, but fewer might be as familiar with some of the artists’ follow-up hits, although each one did reach the Billboard Hot 100. Many of them are first time on CD, or are so obscure that they are really hard to find on other current compilations. It’s that slight unfamiliarity that makes this latest Golden Age collection so good.
By Mick Patrick