The Leiber and Stoller story continues in style! In this second installment of the three-disc series, our heroes heed the call of Atlantic Records, and head East to New York City. While a young Elvis Presley begins his string of L&S hits with a revival of Hound Dog, members of the Riot in Cell Block #9 group, the Robins, rack up a Top Ten hit with Searchin', under their new moniker of the Coasters.
Heady times, these were, as Leiber and Stoller's twin star soared high in the R&B and pop firmament. This disc of 24 gems, ranging from 1956 to 1962, offers a mix of classic hits, lost gems and surprising cover versions.
This volume celebrates Leiber and Stoller's growing prowess in the recording studio. Though they continued to flourish as songwriters, Jerry and Mike soon found their services as producers in equal (if not greater) demand. By the end of the 1950s, L & S truly found their voice. With the help of brilliant arranger Stanley Applebaum, L & S fused tropical baion rhythms and lush symphonic strings to create the timeless mood of the Drifters' 1959 smash There Goes My Baby. Not everyone found this revolutionary production a classic
--- Atlantic's Jerry Wexler called it "an exercise in cacophony"! Yet this disc set the stage for a new era in American soul music, and brought instant stardom to the Drifters' new lead vocalist, Ben E. King.
Other key Leiber/Stoller hits are present: the Clovers' Love Potion No. 9 and Ruth Brown's 1957 perky pop crossover, Lucky Lips. Vital B-sides and near-hits, such as Ben E. King's brooding, majestic On The Horizon (flipside of the anthemic Stand By Me) and Screamin' Jay Hawkins' beyond-demented Alligator Wine, nestle alongside the neglected 1961 original of You're The Boss by LaVern Baker and Jimmy Ricks, and the witty Bossa Nova Baby, waxed for their own Tiger Records label by Tippie and the Clovers. Both songs gained greater notice when Elvis got his golden mitts around them.
As you'd expect with Ace, choice rarities and overlooked goodies abound. Where does one begin? You might pick the Isley Brothers' lewd, loose and funky Your Old Lady; Young Jessie's near-hysterical Here Comes Henry; the British Beat staple Some Other Guy, in its influential 1962 debut by Richie Barrett; Varetta Dillard's wry reading of the unissued 1957 tune Old Fashioned, with vocal support by the Cookies; and, most strikingly of all, Nashville R&B belter Christine Kittrell's little-known original 1962 version of I'm A Woman. Though Jerry and Mike didn't produce this first version, it offers a bluesy, sassy contrast to Peggy Lee's uber-familiar hit rendition.
Leiber and Stoller's collaborations with other songwriting teams get a nod on this second volume. L&S teamed with girl-group cleffers Ellie Greenwich and Tony Powers for Marv Johnson's moody, haunting Keep Tellin' Yourself, and then rallied with John Gluck Jr and Robert Goldstein to create a gem for cult singer Babs Tino in What's Wrong With Me And You. Jerry and Mike also shared credit with the Isley Brothers and Richie Barrett on, respectively, Your Old Lady and Some Other Guy.
As with the first volume of the Leiber and Stoller story, unusual versions of well-known songs offer jaded L&S connoisseurs a breath of fresh air. Thrill to Lonnie Donegan's overlooked first draft of Sorry, But I'm Gonna Have To Pass, Buddy Holly's home recording of Smokey Joe's Cafe (with posthumous overdubs by Norman Petty and the Fireballs), Clyde McPhatter’s masterful stroll through Spanish Harlem, New Orleans R&B ace Alvin Robinson's sly revival of Searchin' and Cassius Clay's impassioned take on Stand By Me!
Your guide for this ultra-hip tour is Mick Patrick, who programmed the disc, with input from Messrs L & S.
With its top-notch tunes, smart liner notes and eye-grabbing graphics, this sterling second volume will whet your appetite for Volume Three, which sees Leiber and Stoller through the rest of the turbulent 1960s.
By Frank M. Young