The Coasters – Greatest Hits

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

The Coasters were an offshoot of the Robins. The classic lineup (1957-?) included Carl Gardner, Billy Guy, Cornell Gunter, and Will Jones. There is a fifth Coaster on the album cover, but no information here about who is who. I like doo wop. Which is a little odd, because I generally hate a capella performance, but not surprising given my love of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean and other harmony-rich bands.

What I Think of This Album

Vocal groups are tricky to judge, as they basically never wrote their own material, so you’re left to fall back on their performance. But it can be difficult to separate that out.

Certainly, the brilliantly comedic songs by Jerry Leiber (lyrics) and Mike Stoller (music) play a substantial role in my appreciation for this record. And that’s to say nothing of the sax performances from King Curtis (I assume, as the liner notes are nonexistent). On the other hand, would I want to hear “Charlie Brown” as sung by Ray Stevens? No. I would not. The doo wop harmonizing is key to the enjoyment.

This is a bare-bones collection that nonetheless does not leave me wanting more. Obviously, “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown” are must-haves, and there is a lot to like about “Poison Ivy,” “I’m a Hog For You” (the curlicue guitar lick is perfect), and “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” (one of only two songs here not written by Leiber and Stoller). Worth mentioning again are the backing musical performances.

King Curtis was stabbed to death in 1971, and Gunter was murdered in 1990, while Gardner, Guy, and Jones all passed naturally.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Yakety Yak,” which not only paints a picture of teenage frustration, but also features the classic saxophone part (the model for future Benny Hill accompaniment “Yakety Sax”) from King Curtis.

Release Date

1989

The Cover Art

The red and green have a holiday overtone to them that throws me. I don’t understand why the colors alternate on the text that way. Band portraits are boring.

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