Teenagers Featuring Frankie Lymon

The Teenagers Featuring Frankie Lymon

by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers
     
 
The very first album issued on Gee Records -- with one of the most distinctive looking album covers of its period -- was also one of the longest in print of all 1950s rock & roll long-players, and one of the most under-appreciated. Even today, this record is kind of a revelation, despite its being around for 50-plus years -- the single was such a dominant format in

Overview

The very first album issued on Gee Records -- with one of the most distinctive looking album covers of its period -- was also one of the longest in print of all 1950s rock & roll long-players, and one of the most under-appreciated. Even today, this record is kind of a revelation, despite its being around for 50-plus years -- the single was such a dominant format in rock & roll during the mid- to late '50s, that it's easy to forget just how good some early rock & roll albums were. The tendency in looking at the history of most acts of the period is to dwell on individual songs and 45 releases, and overlook what the rare long-player of the period can tell us. In seven sessions spread between December of 1955 and August of 1956, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers turned in a dozen takes that make up this album -- these included the group's huge debut hit "Why Do Falls Fall in Love," along with its B-side, the yearning ballad "Please Be Mine," and they're joined by the bouncy "Love Is a Clown" and the lament "Am I Fooling Myself Again," plus a few other slowies. But it's the jaunty numbers like "I Want You to Be My Girl" -- on which Frankie Lymon's pubescent falsetto plays the role of trumpet, ahead of Jimmy Wright's cooking sax break -- that steal the spotlight amid this uniformity of excellence. And buried in the middle of the credits are little clues about the personalities on hand and at work: a song copyright in the name of George Goldner, founder/owner of the label and a decent guy, but also an inveterate gambler, always losing money; and another two in the name of Morris Levy, the next-thing-to-a-gangster, who would buy out Goldner early in the year after this record was released -- plus a few copyrights naming Frankie Lymon (and one of Lymon and Levy), but not one in the names of Teenagers Jimmy Merchant, Herman Santiago, Sherman Garnes, or Joe Negroni, who would be forever shut out of a bigger share of the pie, despite evidence to the contrary concerning Merchant and Santiago, presented too late in court. The notion of assembling rock & roll albums in those days wasn't rocket science, nor was it far removed from way the singles of the day were devised, fast-paced "rhythm numbers" (as they used to call them) alternating with ballads for slow dancing. And all of it was presumably aimed at audiences that would be dancing at parties, record hops, etc. And all of it dating from 1955 and 1956, cut monaurally, was released with a promise of having been "electronically re-recorded" for stereo. The beautiful part of the music that the Teenagers with Frankie Lymon generated was that they embraced both sides of the sound equation -- their slow ballads had enough of a beat; and the fast-paced numbers oozed an aching, almost mournful sincerity from Lymon, on "I Promise to Remember," "I Want You to Be My Girl," "I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent," etc., so kids could dance to them but also embrace them emotionally (and it worked equally well on both sexes -- boys could see themselves being that passionate and sincere with their girls, and the girls could visualize being the objects of such desperation from their boyfriends, real or desired). And the bold, strutting numbers like "ABC's of Love," hit a different target yet, Lymon's exuberant vocal, promising a mix of innocence in tone and forbidden knowledge in content, alternating in focus with Jimmy Wright's piercing sax break -- which implicitly represented the forbidden side of the ABC's -- amid a pounding beat. This particular long-player was released in the fall of 1956, while the Teenagers were still riding the charts with their singles and showing up in movies, but it was neglected by most of their listening public. Except for Elvis Presley's work, few rock & rollers in 1956-1957, or for years after, could coax their fans to make the jump from 5" to 12" platters. Goldner must have been disappointed, though his investment ultimately paid off for others if not for him -- the album stayed in print for over 30 years, as long as there was some part of the Gee Records organization (which was folded into Morris Levy's enterprises in early 1957) around to offer it. In the early '70s -- not even a half-decade after Lymon's death -- amid the first oldies boom, there it was, in that handsome looking jacket; and at the end of the decade, and the middle of the next one you could still find it, in ever poorer sounding re-pressings. Hearing the latter-day versions of this record was an inevitable disappointment, the downside to the delight that new doo wop enthusiasts, going into oldies shops to check out singles by Frankie Lymon and company, would express on seeing that a whole album on them -- with all the hits -- was available. As a result, The Teenagers featuring Frankie Lymon became one of the most frequent "first albums" in the collection of newly minted doo wop enthusiasts -- one New York City store, Golden Disc on Bleecker Street (now Bleecker Street Records), kept a jacket in their window for years and sold hundreds. And it's still a wonder of music and design, 50-plus years later, the best work the group ever did and displaying some of the best aspects of its genre.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/28/2009
Label:
Rhino Flashback
UPC:
0081227985288
catalogNumber:
75507
Rank:
87804

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Why Do Fools Fall in Love?
  2. Please Be Mine
  3. Who Can Explain?
  4. Share
  5. Love Is a Clown
  6. I Promise to Remember
  7. I Want You to Be My Girl
  8. I'm Not a Know It All
  9. Baby Baby
  10. The ABC's of Love
  11. Am I Fooling Myself Again
  12. I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent

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