Bobby Vee does a covers album.
An odd statement perhaps given that a lot of Bobby Vee's material is made up of covers.
I have commented on quite a few Bobby Vee albums on this blog and touched on his background, but , just to refresh,
Bobby Vee aka Robert Thomas Velline was, (wikipedia) "Born in Fargo, North Dakota, he had his first single with "Suzie Baby," an original song penned by Vee that nodded towards Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" for the Minneapolis-based Soma Records in 1959; it drew enough attention and chart action to be purchased by Liberty Records, which signed him to their label later that year. His follow-up single, a cover of Adam Faith's UK number 1 "What Do You Want?" charted in the lower reaches of Billboard in early 1960; however, it was his fourth release, a revival of The Clovers' doo-wop ballad "Devil or Angel", that brought him into the big time with U.S. buyers. His next single, "Rubber Ball", was the record that made him an international star".
Bobby here, though revives the great hits of the 1950s …which had ended only two years earlier!
If this isn't one of the first "let's relive the 50s" covers albums I don't know what it.
There is tendency to look down on singers like Bobby Vee especially when doing music like this. Vee though had his roots in the 50s and was a good stylist. He doesn't do the covers faithfully. They are saturated with his musical personality as well as the clean-er sounds of 1961.
The sounds in 1961 were, generally, smoother, cleaner and poppier. The album's title is "Sings Hits of the Rockin' 50s" not "Sings Rock hits of the 50s" and that says a lot.
There certainly was a market for this well into the 60s but a lot of the music is now overlooked.
When John Lennon did an album of 50s covers ("Rock 'n' Roll" in 1975) or when Robert Plant, Bryan Ferry or Dave Edmunds revive 50s tunes the high brow critics wet their pants.
Vee doesn't get the same break and that's a pity because this album is better on the ears than Lennon's similar effort though not as highly individualistic as Lennon's (and producer Phil Spector's) album. Should an individualistic failure be more highly regarded than a less individualistic success?
Well, the answer is in the listening. And to my ears at least this album holds together better.
The first side tends to the rockier side of the 50s whilst side two has the ballads. I prefer the first side. Vee (though he subsequently did a Buddy Holly covers album) with the exception of Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran, Vee stays away from the "pillars" of the 50s music scene: Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Gene Vincent, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Little Richard are not covered.
In any event, the trouble with doing well known "hits" is you are at a disadvantage because those songs are, errr "hits".
I said this in commenting on Bobby Vee's Buddy Holly tribute album "I Remember Buddy Holly" from 1963 and the same applies to this hits of the 50's album, "The trouble with “tribute cover albums” is that, whether it is 1963 or 1983 you are always going to be compared to the original singers versions. The trouble with that, of course, is that because the artist is deemed to warrant a whole album of covers suggests that the artist must have been significant. If he was significant that means he must have put out a body of work that was exceptional. Accordingly, you are really putting yourself by the eight ball by doing an album of covers by an exceptional artist".
Still, Vee nails some of the songs and it's interesting to hear what the songs sound like with 1961 tastes and attitudes.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Do You Want to Dance? – a great song. Just about every version is good, as is this, with some Buddy Holly mannerisms. The dancing here is more innocent rather than raunchy but there is room for that in contemporary society.
- Lollipop – a poppy doo-wop. A novelty song – quite catchy but it works better with vocal groups, though it seems that Bobby's voice is double tracked here?
- School Days – The guitar doesn't match Chuck Berry but Vee's vocal is spot on
- Little Star – OK.
- Come Go with Me – a great song and a good version. Extremely catchy
- Summertime Blues – not as nasty as Eddie's version but a great song and Vee's vocal again is good.
- Happy, Happy Birthday Baby – sounds like a ballad from a 50s Elvis film.
- Lavender Blue – Gentle, perhaps too gentle.
- Donna – Valen's ballad had balls. Vee gets the longing right but there isnt enough Mexican-American angst.
- Earth Angel – a great song but quite clean, or cleaner still.
- Wisdom of a Fool – some great vocals with some Elvis like mannerisms thrown in.
- Sixteen Candles – very catchy and quite romantic, though you'd end up in jail nowadays if the age gap was substantial between you and the sixteen year old.
Tracks (their origins)
- Do You Want to Dance? – (Bobby Freeman) – A #5 hit for Bobby Freeman in 1958 in the US. Of course the song was done by everyone including The Beach Boys (#8, 1965), Cliff Richard and the Shadows (#2 England, 1962), Bette Midler (#17 1972), The Four Seasons (1964), Del Shannon, (1964), The Mamas & the Papas (1966), Johnny Rivers (1966), We Five (1966), John Lennon (1975), Kim Carnes (1971), T. Rex (1975), The Ramones (1977), Dave Edmunds (1985), David Lindley and El Rayo-X (1988). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_You_Wanna_Dance%3F
- Lollipop – (Julius Edward Dixon / Beverly "Ruby" Ross) – Lollipop was first recorded by the duo Ronald & Ruby (co-writer Ross herself was "Ruby") and then covered more successfully by The Chordettes. The Chordettes went to #2 in the US and #6 in the UK where there was also a cover version by The Mudlarks which made #2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lollipop_(1958_song)
- School Days – (Chuck Berry) – Chuck Berry had a #3 US hit in 1957 and has been covered by everyone including AC/DC (1975), Gary Glitter (1972), Jan and Dean (1964), New Riders of The Purple Sage (1974), The Beach Boys, not to mention live versions by Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley and Led Zeppelin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_Days_(song)
- Little Star – (Vito Picone / Arthur Venosa) – A #1 hit for Italo-American doo wop group The Elegants in 1958. Other artists to record this song include Dion (1961) and Johnny Worth (1958) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Star_(The_Elegants_song)
- Come Go with Me – (Clarence E. Quick) – A #4 hit for doo-wop group The Del-Vikings in 1957. It has been covered by The Beach Boys, The Fleetwoods, Sha Na Na and many others. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_Go_with_Me
- Summertime Blues – (Jerry Capehart / Eddie Cochran) – A #8 hit for Eddie Cochran in 1958. It has been covered by many artists including versions by The Beach Boys (19621), The Who (1970), Blue Cheer (1968), Alan Jackson (#1 country, 1980), Dick Dale And His Del-Tones (1965), T-Rex (1970), Olivia Newton-John (1975), The Flying Lizards (1978), Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (LIVE 1978), The Flaming Lips (1986), Brian Setzer (1987), Joan Jett (1980), The Gants (1966), Alex Chilton (1977), The Black Keys (2004), The Dandy Warhols (LIVE 2012), James Taylor (2008), Guitar Wolf (1999), The Ugly’s (2004), Levon Helm (1981). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summertime_Blues
- Happy, Happy Birthday Baby – (Gilbert Lopez / Margo Sylvia) – A #5 hit for The Tune Weavers in 1957. It has also been covered by Dolly Parton (1966), Sandy Posey (it #36 country 1971), Ronnie Milsap (#1 country 1986), Wanda Jackson (1958). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy,_Happy_Birthday_Baby
- Lavender Blue – (Traditional) – "Lavender Blue" is an old English folk song that Burl Ives did for the film "So Dear to My Heart" (1948) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Sammy Turner released it in 1959 and it hit # 14 on the US. Other versions include those by The Browns (1960), Gene Vincent (1964), Bobby Vinton (1964), The Merseybeats (1964), Solomon Burke, Leon & Mary Russell (1975), Marillion (1985), and The Wiggles (1991). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender_Blue
- Donna – (Ritchie Valens) – A #2 hit in 1958 for Mexican-American rocker Ritchie Valens. Other versions include Los Lobos (1987), Johnny Crawford (1962), Clem Snide (2000), Cliff Richard (1958), Donny Osmond (1972), Misfits (2003), Gary Glitter (1972), Shakin Stevens (1982), Johnny Tillotson (1963). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_(Ritchie_Valens_song)
- Earth Angel – (Jesse Belvin / Gaynel Hodge / Curtis "Fitz" Williams) – A #8 hit for Afro-American doo-wop group The Penguins in 1955. The white vocal group The crew Cuts had a #8 with it in the same year. Other versions include Gloria Mann (#18, 1955), Barry Frank and the Four Bells (1955), Johnny Tillotson (#57, 1960), Bobby Vinton (1963), The Vogues (1969), New Edition (#21, 1986), Aaron Neville (2003), Death Cab for Cutie (2005), and live versions from Blink-182, The Fleetwoods, The Four Seasons, Green Day and Elvis Presley. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Angel
- Wisdom of a Fool – (Roy Alfred / Abner Silver) – A #35 hit for Afro-American R&B group The Five Keys in 1957. Other versions include Frank Ifield (1963), Norman Wisdom (!)(1957), and B.J. Thomas (1967).
- Sixteen Candles – (Luther Dixon / Allyson R. Khent) – A #2 hit for Afro-American doo-wop group The Crests in 1958. Other versions include The Four Seasons (1964), The Jackson 5 (1971), Sha na na (1973), Stray Cats (1984), Jerry Lee Lewis (# 61 country 1986), The Passions (#146, 1963). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/16_Candles_(song)
Fun for parties …. I'm keeping it.
1961 #85 (his first charting album in the US)
Do You Want to Dance?