Rock & Roll - The First 50 Years: The '50s 25 Top 10 Hits
Like numerous compilations on the Varese Sarabande label, this anthology of 1950s rock & roll hits seems geared toward the casual consumer who picks up oldies collections once in a while, not the more serious collector looking for the best overview of a genre or the best volumes for building a comprehensive library of a certain style. If you're not worried about such
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These twenty-six selections represent some of the very best that rock 'n' roll's earliest years had to offer. Focusing on the years 1956 through 1959, the album would be more accurately titled "The Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Years," making the point that these are the essential roots of all that bloomed over the succeeding 46 years. ¶ Varese's done an exemplary job of pulling together numerous strands of music that were (often retroactively) dubbed "rock 'n' roll." As this collection demonstrates, the tapestry of rock 'n' roll included threads of country, R 'n' B (from New York, New Orleans, and beyond), doo-wop, vocal pop, piano- and sax-driven barnburners, and rockabilly. Of particular interest is Sonny Dae and His Knight's rare jump-jazz rendition of "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock," which shows the source, but not the rock 'n' roll bite of Bill Haley's subsequent cover. ¶ Rock 'n' roll's formative years were born of an amazing fusion that burst open with incredible originality and vitality. Varese's captured a compelling swath of the highlights (with tracks 15, 20, 24, and 25 in true stereo) on this richly programmed disc. It's far from a complete picture - without Elvis, Holly and Berry, it could hardly even suggest itself to be - but it's a fun spin full of seminal rock 'n' roll sides. Together with period photos and artwork, and Bill Dahl's informative liner notes, this package shows ever-so-clearly that they just don't make 'em like they used to. Not even close.