This three-CD box set contains 66 tracks taken from various schools of the first decade (or so) of rock & roll: doo wop, girl group, rockabilly, early soul, light pop
ock, New Orleans R&B, and more. For the most part they were big hits, though one or two things you'll rarely if ever hear on oldies radio are thrown in, like Little Richard's "True, Fine Mama" or Shep & the Limelites' "Our Anniversary." Sometimes songs that were released after the British Invasion started, but owed much to doo wop or girl group sounds, are included. Well, how else would you explain the presence of songs like Jay & the Americans' "Cara, Mia" or the Casinos' "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye," the latter of which didn't come out until 1967? But why opt for this particular collection, when there are so many other oldies anthologies that either opt for the absolutely most familiar huge smashes if buyers want just the biggest hits, or far narrower, specialized focuses like rockabilly and doo wop if the buyer's choosier and more knowledgeable? You certainly couldn't call a box that has nothing by Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, Carl Perkins, or Brenda Lee (just for starters) a definitive response to the gauntlet thrown down by the subtitle "The Greatest Songs From Early Rock 'n' Roll." Generally, the compilation targets the kind of warm, romantic songs that nostalgic viewers of the PBS pledge drive perennial Doo Wop 50 special might be apt to buy (or submit a pledge in exchange for) on an impulse right after the credits roll. That's not a purely flip remark: The box was co-presented by Rhino with WQED, the Pittsburgh station that originated the Doo Wop 50 program. Any box that has classics like "Twist and Shout," "He's So Fine," "Cathy's Clown," "Do You Love Me," "Hello Stranger," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "Runaway," "Up on the Roof," "Stand By Me," "What'd I Say," and many others of similar quality has a lot going for it, but it's certainly not the best you could do if you're looking for starting points for collecting late-'50s/early-'60s rock. Basically, it's the equivalent of those all-over-the-map collections of oldies that have been hawked on TV for decades, assembled with considerably greater taste and much better liner notes.