Various Artists, Rare Oldies But Goodies

Lenny Kaye

By Lenny Kaye

on 05.04.12 in Reviews

Usually when the word “rarity” is emblazoned on an album of golden-era rock ‘n’ roll, the expectation is that it will be full of collector classics unearthed from deep in the vaults of doo-wop and rockabilly. But herein is a collection of an even more arguably scarce, underappreciated slice of rock history: the teenage love-struck song, shorn of sophistication and heralding innocence and starry eyes. I have a streak of the romantic meself, and came to this collection searching for Carl Dobkin Jr.’s “My Heart Is an Open Book,” which I intended to sing at the recent World Book Night. But in scrolling through the assembled tracks, I was pleasured to find many of my personal favorites, capturing an aw-shucks sensibility that reflected my own sense of wonder during the hormonal growth spurts of adolescence.

Underappreciated slices of rock history

Johnny Ferguson’s “Angela Jones” and Mike Clifford’s “Close To Kathy” are perfect examples of yearning at its most aorta-breaking; George Hamilton IV’s “A Rose And A Baby Ruth” is as ghostly as Edd “Kookie” Byrnes jive-talk (“Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb”) is groovy; one-hit wonders (Dickie Lee, Donnie Brooks) mingle with celebrities from other mediums (Sal Mineo, Richard Chamberlain). Clever novelties abound: Buzz Clifford’s “Baby Sitting Boogie” matches wits with Tommy Faceda’s “High School U.S.A.,” which attempted to chronicle every high school region by releasing 28 different versions — this is the “national” version. The pop touches from a production standpoint are charming and accomplished, as in Tony Orlando’s “Bless You,” featuring swirling strings, chirpy background vocals, a pitching-woo sung from a predominantly male viewpoint, promising steadfast eternal devotion to a girl presumably crinoline’d, pony-tailed, thinking about just how far she should go at the after the Spring Fling. Just about a nickel a track as I figure it.