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PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2005 10:36 pm 
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I stopped at the library and listened to Cameo-Parkway 1957-1967 all day today at work. I'm gonna be blunt, most of the music sucks. A label like Scepter Records was also very small, but at least they had some pretty awesome music: "Louie Louie," The Shirelles, Chuck Jackson, and Dionne Warwick. Based on that I could justify the box set they had. A label like Cameo-Parkway only merits a box set just to get this stuff out in one shot after years out of circulation. It's GOOD that a greedy, asswipe like Klein finally put this back into print, but if this material had been available for years, there'd be little celebration over this box set because the music isn't that good.

Never mind the non-hits, most of the hits aren't great. "The Twist" was a gigantic hit, probably has some cultural significance the way "The Macarena" is significant, but it's not great rock n' roll. "Twisting The Night Away" and "Peppermint Twist" are better twist records (though the former is more swinging than anything). Of course, Checker drove the whole concept into the ground and milked it for all its worth. I was never a fan of Fabian or Pat Boone's teeny-bopper music, so not surprisingly, Bobby Rydell's records don't do much for me either ("La la la la la la..." great hook, ladies), and he's one of the 'major artists' on this set. Bernie Lowe's (one of the original label execs) 'Orchestra' doing an uninspired version of "Sing Sing Sing," irritating novelty instrumentals like "Mexican Hat Rock" with its fake-Latino flavor (I'd be surprised if any REAL Latino musicians were involved in the arrangement)...bleeeech. "Birds N' Bees" by the Temptations - who are obviously NOT David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, et al. "The Wah-Watusi" limps like a wounded animal...to be honest, I have no idea how to do the Watusi, but when Wilson Pickett or Patti Smith commands you to do it, you get the feeling it's something really moving and liberating, but you don't get that impression from this #2 hit by the Orlons. It's actually one of Cameo's biggest hits. So basically the whole first disc is a wash, except for the Rays doing "Silhouettes," which is pretty good doo-wop.

BTW, I should mention these discs look pretty cool: making a CD look like a vinyl replica isn't a new concept, but going the extra mile of making the polycarbonate 'opaque' black, that's pretty awesome.

Disc two, Dee Dee Sharp is pretty good, so good, Motown should've signed her. That way she wouldn't be saddled with Motown knock-offs like "Mashed Potato Time" which steals the melody, arrangement, and a whole lot more from "Mr. Postman." They 'shared' the songwriting credit with Motown's writers and avoided a lawsuit. It was a big hit in the 60's, though, so whatever. To be honest, Clint Eastwood, of all people, made the biggest impression on me. He does one cut here, probably a novelty, but Clint ain't a bad singer. Well, he doesn't do well with the high notes and occasionally sounds too sleepy with the phrasing (especially when he's trying to drag behind the beat), but he croons pretty smoothly, and you wouldn't know it was him in a blind test. Good for an actor, if not that good.

Disc Three picks up with a strong hit, "So In Love" by the Tymes. Excellent, smooth vocal. The next track, also by the Tymes, is bathetic. The third Tymes cut, "Somewhere," returns to the "So In Love" formula, with the fingersnaps and similar backing vocals, another nice lead vocal, but a retread. Other stuff, Pete Best ripping off Ringo/The Beatles' version of "Boys," the Kinks' first single, which ain't that good (the B-side is better than their cover of "Long Tall Sally"), a lame Bobby Kennedy parody of him supposedly singing "Wild Thing": William Shatner singing "Mr. Tambourine Man," it ain't (of course, they come back for another one, this time a crappy Christmas record with an annoying Dylan parody...Dylan parodies are funny for a few seconds. Over 2+ minutes, you want to throw an axe into the speaker.)

Disc Four is easily, EASILY the best of the four. Evie Sands is pretty good, and she gets decent songs with decent arrangements. Not great, but "Angel of the Morning" ain't bad - a sappy song grounded by Sands tasteful singing. Eddie Holman and the Five Stairsteps aren't bad. All of these artists aren't lost greats, but they cut some pretty decent r&b here. Then there's the early cuts by the Delfonics and Ohio Express, with the Ohio Express doing Beg, Borrow and Steal (still prefer the other version on Nuggets). Then there's ? and the Mysterians and Bob Seger, who ought to get their own collections. The three ? and the Mysterians cuts are excellent (even if one is really similar to 96 Tears) and the Seger stuff is just a taste of how good and different his early stuff is. Since ASSCO won't license this shit out, they ought to license Capitol and others for Seger's other early recordings, the ones he can't touch and filibuster, and issue their own definitive early years collection.

The mastering is pretty good, but there's really nothing you can compare it to. Unless you have that OOP Time-Life CD with 96 Tears, etc. The sound has a similar quality to other ABKCO reissues in recent years, like the Sam Cooke CD's, etc. Solid-state like - detailed, well-defined, not too hard but not too soft or warm either - with tasteful EQ.

If they ever do a single CD sampler, or if there's a cheap promo floating around with 96 Tears, Heavy Music, and maybe East Side Story, I'd get that, but the set as a whole is for nostalgia buffs only.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2005 1:09 pm 
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Good review - I agree with much of it, though I am enjoying the early discs a bit more than you. I definitely agree that C/P is way over-rated and that the "importance" of the new box is largely due to this material simply not being available for so long. Aside from the obvious hits ("The Twist," etc.) most of these tracks are new to me, so it has been interesting being exposed to them. But most of the familiar hits, as you say, were pretty bad in retrospect. They feel so old and dated - moreso than from just about any other oldies label I can think of. I have some buck-bin Chubby Checker LPs that I spin occassionally, and they're so of-the-time that they're a lot of fun to listen to, but when some of his songs are placed in a more historical, label comp context they can't help but seem gimmicky and kitschy. Good god, man, how many dances crazes can one label manufacture???

Anyhow, I just bought this set a week or two ago (used, only $35 at Amoeba), so I can't complain - and I haven't yet listened to disc 4, which you think is the best, giving me hope...

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2005 1:30 pm 
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I always thought that this box was mainly of historical importance. Your review confirmed this. Thank you.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 12:16 am 
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Not really interested in this set, but I thought I'd report that the new ICE CD watchdog column says these CD won't play on DVD players lacking two lasers, due to them being black.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2005 4:52 pm 
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BTW, ? and the Mysterians is getting a definitive single-CD comp, out this fall. Has all the tracks from the CP box, presumably with the same mastering.

Dee Dee Sharp and a couple of others get their own discs, too, but with the exception of Dee Dee, not crazy about any of their talents, and even Dee Dee's body of work is a letdown. But, it's a better option than the box set.

All you need is the early Seger. Again, check out the boots. Not sure how they sound, but they may be a better bet.

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