Shout Out Louds – Howl Howl Gaff Gaff

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

I haven’t followed this band in the way that I should have – third album Work sort of stopped me cold – and that is on me, because Shout Out Louds (there is no The on the album art, so . . . ) make wonderful music. Formed in Stockholm around 2001, the band consists of three childhood friends – Adam Olenius, Ted Malmros, and Carl von Arbin – and two newcomers, keyboardist Bebban Stenborg and drummer Eric Edman. They had a debut EP by 2003 and Howl Howl Gaff Gaff came out two years later (though a different version with the same title was released in Scandinavian countries in 2003).

What I Think of This Album

If you are particularly stingy and brittle-hearted, you could say this album is basically a collection of eleven different variations on the Cure’s “Close to Me” and “In Between Days.” And if you said that, I admit I would laugh. And then I would punch you in the throat, you joyless fucker.

This is an exuberant and exciting burst of Scandinavian indie pop, and it may be one of my favorite albums. It’s just so goddamn colorful and radiant. I particularly love the slight rasp in Adam Olenius’s voice. 

Like any proper Scandinavian art, there is a strong element of lyrical melancholy that provides a nice counterbalance to the thrilling sounds and bloodrush delivery. Somehow, Shout Out Louds have created the happiest sad music ever. Relatedly, I feel like this quintet was at least partial inspiration for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

The band’s firework energy would mean little if it wasn’t harnessed to strong songwriting. If energy is all you want, I have some football chants you might enjoy. No, SOL’s brilliance is in their ability to also craft charming melodies with an immediacy that makes them feel like long-lost classics and to arrange the songs in a way that keeps you engaged and craving repeat listens. 

The keyboard work of Bebban Stornborg (particularly on “100°” (I had to research how to do that degrees symbol and I am fucking stoked that I found it)) is undoubtedly critical, perhaps even responsible for the sound of strings (there is no string section credited but that doesn’t mean anything). Beyond that, drummer Eric Edman (and guest drummer Stellan von Reybekie) is nimble and adept. There is well-placed feedback, fuzz bass, xylophone, wah-wah guitar, melodica, some kind of glockenspiel or something, and a lot of other little touches that add sparkle and glitter. 

As this album is cobbled together, there are multiple producers and mixers, but one of them is Björn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn, and John.

This is low key one of my favorite albums.

The Best Thing About This Album

The exhilaration.

Release Date

October, 2003 (Scandinavia); May, 2005 (International)

The Cover Art

You know what? It’s not bad. If this was the cover of a book in my elementary school library, I would totally read it. The shade of green and the placement of the text on my copy is a little different (i.e., more of a forest green and left justified (but not the Gaff Gaff line))

The Fastbacks – Zücker

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

As far as I can remember, I only had one real chance to see the Fastbacks live and that was in the early ‘90s in Washington, D.C. I didn’t see them and now it’s too late. How many times has that happened to me? Lots. Have I learned my lesson? No. It still happens.

What I Think of This Album

This is the part where I inform you that zücker is German for sugar, and tell you how it is an appropriate title for this energetic pop-punk masterpiece. Joined by Rusty Willoughby of Flop on drums (though Willoughby plays the guitar in Flop), the Fastbacks power their way through thirteen instant classics and one Bee Gees cover on this Sub Pop release. Do I need to check out ‘60s Bee Gees? Fuck me.

Kurt Bloch is all over the place on this album, inserting his ‘70s hard rock influenced leads into his melodic tunes, which ease off the punk somewhat (but not completely) this time around but are nonetheless so forceful and speedy that you barely notice the softer edge. Presumably he plays the keyboards that are more than a little present, though there is no credit in the liner notes. Kim Warnick and Lulu Gargiulo turn in their best vocal performances to date, notably on spooky ballad “When I’m Old” and girl-group adjacent number “They Don’t Care,” which also features some of my favorite lead guitar lines on this album. Also of note is spiky instrumental “Bill Collector,” on which Bloch shows off his moves.

PNW mainstay Conrad Uno co-engineered the album, which was only the third full-length studio release for the band (the first coming in 1987), even though they formed in the late ’70s. It was also their first studio album for Sub Pop.

The Best Thing About This Album

Bloch’s songwriting and guitar playing.

Release Date

January, 1993

The Cover Art

I like the colors. The rest isn’t terrible, and I sort of appreciate the weirdness of it – if I am being honest, it is a memorable image, so maybe it did its job? – but it is far from a favorite.

The Fastbacks – The Question Is No

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

It is entirely possible that the Fastbacks are the most punk band not only in my collection, but the country. Keep your Fear, your Fugazi, your Dead Kennedys. They are all more professional, polished, and popular than the Fastbacks, who formed in 1979 and didn’t release their first album until 1987 (and even that one was cobbled together from a series of sessions, only one of which took place in an actual recording studio), and who never have had a permanent drummer. High school friends Lulu Gargiulo, Kim Warnick, and Kurt Bloch formed and essentially remained the Seattle band until 2001 (or maybe 2002, who knows? See? Punk as fuck). At first, Bloch drummed, Warnick played bass, and Gargiulo was the guitarist while a friend handled vocals. Quickly trimmed down to a trio, Bloch took over on guitar and Warnick grabbed the mic and they scraped by with random drummers thereafter. Those drummers have included two members of Flop, Mike Musberger of the Posies, Richard Stuverud (who has been associated with members of Pearl Jam), Tad Hutchinson from the Young Fresh Fellows – another band Bloch is in, Mudhoney’s own Dan Peters, and of course, future Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan. The alternative/grunge/Seattle boom in the ‘90s resulted in the Fastbacks opening for Pearl Jam on an international tour, but of course, that didn’t translate to fame and fortune.

What I Think of This Album

The Question Is No is a delightful collection of singles, compilation tracks, and unreleased songs on Sub Pop featuring five drummers (including, yes, Duff) and covering twelve years of the band’s history. Seven tracks are from 1980-88 and the other six are from the productive-by-comparison era of 1991-92, though the newer songs are presented first (mostly – per the liner notes, this was a decision intended as an explicit “fuck you” to people like me who want a strict timeline).

Displaying a remarkable consistency despite the years and the drummers, the Fastbacks play hooky, speedy, fuzzy poppish punk descended from the Ramones and akin to a less tortured Buzzcocks. Kurt Bloch is a triple-threat, writing engagingly catchy melodies, playing tough lead guitar that is actually more Cheap Trick than anything else, and offering up lyrics that are thoughtful and intelligent. For their part, Lulu Gargiulo and Kim Warnick sweeten and soften things up with their lively vocals, adding a girl-group element to the sound.

Warnick worked at SubPop and was in Visqueen with Rachel Flotard (Neko Case) in the early 2000s. Her husband for some period of time was Ken Stringfellow of the Posies. Gargiulo is a cinematographer and filmmaker.

The Best Thing About This Album

Um, Duff. Okay, not really, but almost. “Lose” is a fantastic fucking song, with the brilliantly titled “Don’t Eat That It’s Poison” nipping at its heels.

Release Date

June, 1992

The Cover Art

Dumb, but my main objection is that a drummer is in the pic. Also, I think this cover was just repurposed from the The Answer Is You release photo shoot. That’s punk.

Evans the Death – Expect Delays

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

Expect delays, indeed. Despite having and adoring Evans the Death’s first album for some time, it took me inexplicably long to acquire the second album from the always reliable Slumberland Records. I have rarely been so gratified by a purchase. I love this band.

What I Think of This Album

It’s not that this album is better or weaker than the band’s debut. It’s that they are both of a piece, and I am very tempted to tell you that the best way to listen to each is to play them back-to-back. Evans the Death should be an immersive experience, honoring the strength and beauty of Katherine Whittaker’s swooping vocals and Dan Moss’s intrepid songcraft. 

As with the first album, I feel like it would be insulting to single out individual tracks. Expect Delays is art, and you should experience the flow and the moods and the sonics in one dedicated sitting. Whittaker’s voice is like a moody, recalcitrant magic carpet and you’d be a fool to chop up the thrilling ride into three minute legs. For his part, Moss seems to have a bottomless bag of tricks, and is able to pull from shoegaze, indie-pop, and girl-group with ease and aplomb.

For an album dripping with drama and offering possibly disorienting vistas, it remains solidly grounded and thoroughly satisfying on a molecular level. I have fully and willingly given myself over to this record.

The Best Thing About This Album

How it creates it’s own world.

Release Date

2015

The Cover Art

Utterly horrible.

Elf Power – Walking With the Beggar Boys

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

2023 was the Year of Elf Power. Not really. But sort of. During the year, I saw Elf Power live; bought two Elf Power albums (only one of which I am keeping); saw the Elephant 6 documentary (The Elephant 6 Recording Co.); and read a book about the Elephant 6 collective (Endless, Endless:  A Lo-Fi History of the Elephant 6 Mystery). My main takeaway? Laura Carter is not getting enough credit.

What I Think of This Album

This sixth proper Elf Power album (not counting the covers album) is a bit of a departure for the band, moving away from the Tolkienesque imagery of their psychedelic work and embracing more conventional sounds. It is a refreshing modulation, succeeding as both a sign of growth and skill and also a reminder of relevance. Way to go, Laura Carter and Andrew Rieger (and others).

“Never Believe” is basically power-pop, with some creative keyboard effects and Rieger’s plaintive vocals. A glammier tone is struck on the title track, with the added feature of guest vocals from Vic Chestnutt, and an insistent repetitive guitar line and some tinkling piano and call-and-response backing vocals.

“Drawing Flies” is fantastic with its coy sighing vocals and not-coy fuzz guitar. There is a simple, jangly prettiness to “Evil Eye,” whereas “Don’t Let It Be” charges ahead with punkish energy. And “Hole In My Shoe” gradually earns its place on the album, with some clever instrumentation. 

The neo-bluegrass elements of “Empty Pictures” provide a beautiful backdrop for an unexpectedly poignant ballad. The closer is “Big Thing” and it is a big thing indeed, muscular and loud and, dare I say, joyous.

Less successful is the folky “The Stranger,” which is way too precious, coming off like a kudzu-strewn Robyn Hitchcock covering Simon & Garfunkel’s “Richard Cory.” The band doubles down on creativity with “The Cracks,” an ominous piece replete with industrial percussion and creepy keyboard lines, though that isn’t to say it’s a pleasant listen. “Invisible Men” never develops into anything distinctive.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Empty Pictures,” though it is a close call with several other tracks.

Release Date

2004

The Cover Art

Boring and self-indulgent. I really don’t need to see your kids and pets on your album cover.

The Everly Brothers – All-Time Original Hits

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Close in age and closer in harmony, the Everly Brothers were a major influence on the Beatles, Hollies, and Byrds, to say nothing of Simon & Garfunkel (whose cover of “Wake Up, Little Susie’ is how I discovered the sibling duo). Born in the late 1930s, Don and Phil Everly grew up in a musical family, appearing often on their father’s radio show in Iowa from an early age and eventually moving to Tennessee, where they decamped to Nashville as soon as they finished high school. Coming under the wing of Chet Atkins, the pair signed to the Acuff-Rose publishing firm (the subject of a paen by Uncle Tupelo) in 1956 and started recording songs by the spousal team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant (who also wrote for Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly, and whose work has been covered by Dylan, Elvis Costello, Joan Jett, and Gram Parsons, among many others). Their hit-making days in the U.S. lasted into 1962, though they had better luck for a few more years in the U.K. and Canada. Drug addiction followed as their career stalled, though the pair recorded a well-received album (Roots) in 1968; the act split up in 1973. In the intervening years they pursued solo careers (Phil worked with Warren Zevon), but the brothers got back together in 1983 (they subsequently worked with Dave Edmunds and appeared on Paul Simon’s Graceland) and this time they lasted, with diminishing frequency, until Phil died in 2014. Don died in 2021.

What I Think of This Album

This carefully curated collection captures 16 chart hits – in chronological order, thank the lord – from 1957 to 1961. My personal favorite is “Take a Message to Mary,” followed very closely by “Cathy’s Clown,” but you can take your pick from a slew of standouts like “All I Have to Do is Dream,” “When Will I Be Loved,” “(‘Til) I Kissed You,” and “Bye Bye Love.” 

I do think “Bird Dog” is incredibly annoying, however. “Ebony Eyes” (written by John D. Laudermilk) is pretty awesome, and likely the inspiration for the Bigger Lovers’ “Casual Friday.”

Don generally sings the low parts and Phil the high ones; Don’s guitar playing has been hailed by Keith Richards, and he does do a cool bit on the intro to “Bye Bye Love.” Each was also a songwriter, with Don creating “‘Til I Kissed You” and Phil composing “When Will I Be Loved.” Apparently it is disputed who wrote “Cathy’s Clown.” 

Chet Atkins plays electric guitar on some of these songs. Floyd Cramer, of Elvis’s backing band, plays the excellent piano part on “Cathy’s Clown.” Pete Wingfield, who produced Dexy’s Midnight Runners and played keys for a number of artists, was in the Everly Brothers’ backing band after they reunited.

Some authorities take issue with the mixes on this Rhino comp, and also note that it omits several key songs from the brothers’ repertoire.

The brothers had a cousin named Jewel Guy, who changed his name to James Best professionally, and achieved pop culture fame as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard.

The Best Thing About This Album

The harmonies are heavenly.

Release Date

November, 1999

The Cover Art

Perfectly acceptable for a comp.


Everclear – Songs From an American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

God help me, I sincerely believed this band had staying power. I thought Art Alexakis was a talented songwriter, hard worker, and savvy marketer, and that the dynamic with Greg Eklund and Craig Montoya would fuel a long career marked by good-to-great releases. I was wrong. Not necessarily about Alexakis, who is talented and driven, but he probably miscalculated in ways that he could not recover from, and the band fell apart once the rhythm section left. Songs From an American Movie  Vol. One: Learning How to Smile sold well – it went platinum – but the companion follow-up was unwisely released very quickly after and pretty much died on arrival. That said, it was a sort of grating hard rock album that probably was too much of a left turn after the progression from Afterglow to Vol. One. After the following album stiffed, Montoya and Eklund departed – the personal fallout from the Afterglow tour likely never having been addressed, much less repaired – and Everclear has limped along with hired guns ever since, mostly haunting the ‘90s revival circuit.

What I Think of This Album

This album really should not work at all. First, it arrived as the core of the trio was beginning to crack, highlighted by a disastrous tour of Australia that saw Art Alexakis physically attack Craig Montoya on stage and resulted in Montoya leaving the band for a spell. Second, there is the ill-advised and even worse sounding cover of “Brown Eyed Girl.” Third, the decision to base “A.M. Radio” on “Mr. Big Stuff,” the 1971 hit for Jean Knight on the Stax label, further betrays a troubling lack of historical perspective. Fourth, and most critically, this concept album – the first salvo of a two album effort – shows that Alexakis decided he wanted to be an artist instead of a rock star, and the problem with that decision is that it meant that he failed to grasp that he was already an artist. There was no need go to full Queensrÿche.  

But here I am, enjoying the shit out of Songs From an American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile, like some idiot. For all my criticism and worry, the goddamn thing is a success. Tuneful and warm and the poppiest thing the band had created by miles, it somehow manages to avoid the pitfalls of pretension and the sins of sappiness. 

Filled with samples, loops, keyboards, banjo, ukelele, mandolin, brass, and strings, this album puts it all out there with Alexakis’s trademark confidence. That it is supposed to mostly document the early, sunny days of a new relationship helps, as there is a large vein of positivity running through the record that you can’t help but buy into. And naturally, Alexakis excels on the rare tunes that revolve around negative emotions, even when he steps into the shoes of his own child witnessing parental conflict (“Wonderful”) or half-embracing a mature perspective on “Now That It’s Over.”

Drummer Greg Eklund takes the mike on “The Honeymoon Song.” Petra Haden of that dog. sings on “Annabella’s Song.” The band thanks Cheap Trick, Soul Coughing, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in the liner notes.

The Best Thing About This Album

The audacity that it took to pull this off.

Release Date

July, 2000

The Cover Art

The framing evokes the cinematic title, but the subject matter is silly, at best.

Everclear – So Much for the Afterglow

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I saw Everclear play a short set at Tower Records on Clark Street in Chicago in support of this album. Afterwards, they autographed merch, including the slipcover of my CD. They had a touring guitarist with them (Steve Birch) and he signed the album, too, and not to be a dick, but that bothered me. That dude should not have been sitting at the table, signing shit like he was in Everclear. He. Was. Not. In. Everclear. The band also had a fan contest to win a free ticket to their upcoming show at Metro. The contest involved answering a short list of written questions that they distributed at the Tower Records appearance. One of the questions was something like “What Are Your Three Favorite Bands?” I don’t remember my complete answer (I am sure the first band I listed was the Smiths and I suspect the second was the Clash), but I know that as a lark I wrote The Flying Burrito Brothers as the third band. I actually do like their first two albums, but at the time I was not actually a fan; I just thought that anyone reading the submissions would see a bunch of answers like Nirvana and Soundgarden and that they would be amused by the relative incongruity of my response. I ended up winning the tickets, and I firmly believe in my heart that Art Alexakis specifically picked my submission because of my answer to that question. I don’t think I made it to the show, however.

What I Think of This Album

If Sparkle and Fade brought Everclear into the public eye, So Much for the Afterglow made them fucking stars. It spun off five singles and sold over two million copies, and these songs were all over the radio and MTV. It covers a lot of the same thematic ground as the major label debut, but it’s much poppier, while still rocking. Part of this is due to the fact that Greg Eklund is fully in charge of the kit on all the songs this time, and he swings more than his predecessor. But mostly it’s that Art Alexakis, always the tactician, wrote his strongest batch of songs and expertly emphasized the melody while keeping the punk influence modulated to just the right degree to appeal to as wide a population as possible. Sure, it’s calculated but that doesn’t mean it isn’t authentic. 

There is not a bad song on this album. Some are slighter than others, but every single track is eminently listenable. And there are also great songs on here, full of welcome and well-thought out production touches and engaging arrangements. Indeed, the band makes a statement right away with the unexpected Beach Boys-in-the-moshpit sound of the title track, replete with inescapable vocal harmonies and irresistible handclaps, as well as a na-na-na countermelody, nice little guitar solo, and buried vocalizations from Alexakis, to say nothing of a false ending. I fucking love a false ending! This is easily my favorite song on this album.

“White Men in Black Suits” is probably the sleeper track of this disc; it is adeptly paced, and has some simple but critical guitar lines, as well as evocative lyrics. Plus, you know, the harmonies. Alexakis upends conventional notions (if not definitions) on “Normal Like You,” which would likely come off as pretentious if delivered by anyone else, but Alexakis sells it and here I am, slapping my dollars down on the counter. 

There is a delicacy to the arguably autobiographical “I Will Buy You a New Life,” which provides a convincing glimpse of blue-collar romanticism that X would be proud of. Rami Jaffe of the Wallflowers (and eventually, the Foo Fighters) adds a very Wallflowers-like organ part. When I moved to Portland, I rented an apartment with a view of the West Hills; I would sing the corresponding lyric from this track to myself almost every time I stepped out onto my balcony. As enjoyable is “One Hit Wonder,” with a great melody, a horn section, a neat little bass fill from Craig Montoya (who rarely gets to show off on Everclear songs), and more of the harmonies that dominate this album.

“Father of Mine” is devastating and more than just arguably autobiographical, and a very strange choice for a single, but hey, it was 1997. Not one of my favorites, honestly, but it is emotionally powerful in a way I cannot deny. 

Diversity and creative stretching are on ample display throughout. The Pro Tools creation “El Distorto de Melodica” is pretty cool for an instrumental; I can’t tell if the brittle, harsh sound is intentional or not, but it’s the equivalent of smashing your face into a tub full of microscopic glass shards. “Everything for Everyone” offers a heap of programming, plus more harmonies and a funky part from Eklund. There are strings on “Amphetamine,” an affecting story of a haunted but hopeful recovering addict. A banjo shows up on “Why I Don’t Believe in God.” 

Again, it was 1997, so yes, Veruca, there is a hidden track:  “Hating You for Christmas.” It doesn’t suck.

The success of this album, to be sure, is not simply the result of Alexakis’s vision. SMFTA is definitely a major label album with major label resources behind it. The Everclear mastermind may give himself top producer billing but five other guys (including Eklund and Montoya) were also involved in the production. The songs were recorded and mixed at six different studios. The list of engineers is like five fucking feet long. I’m not entirely sure what involvement Alexakis even had in “Distorto,” which is obliquely credited to Lars Fox (of Grotus) who gets a shoutout for “loops and samples.” In addition, apparently Alexakis sang his vocals to sped-up versions of the backing tracks, wanting the songs to come across as faster and more energetic.

This is my favorite Everclear album.

The Best Thing About This Album

“So Much for the Afterglow” – the honeymoon is NOT over.

Release Date

October, 1997

The Cover Art

The image here is for the slipcover. The art in the jewel case is very similar, except Alexakis and Montoya are leaning against their respective walls and everyone’s feet are lined up, so that the trio’s bodies create an inverted triangle, and also it’s sepia toned. All in all, pretty cool. Simple and artsy. Reminds me a little of The Clash cover. Oh, and it was designed by Mr. Touring Guitarist, Steven Birch (who also did the Sparkle and Fade art).

Everclear – Sparkle and Fade

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

I feel like Everclear gets a very bad rap. Of all the bands I like, Everclear is probably the most widely disrespected. Most of the ill will is due to Art Alexakis, who is by many if not all accounts a very difficult human being and whose version of critical events is not always consistent with those of others involved. That may be and it’s shitty, but a significant part of people’s dislike of Alexakis also appears to revolve around some indie-purist distaste for his drive and desire for success. Alexakis survived a difficult early life of poverty, fatherlessness, heroin addiction, the death of a brother due to overdose, and the death of a girlfriend by suicide, only to see his career as a musician stall by the time he moved from California to Portland in the early 1990s. He formed Everclear with bassist Craig Montoya and a drummer, released an EP and then their debut album in 1993. New drummer Craig Eklund came aboard for the recording of Sparkle and Fade, by which time Alexakis’s unparalleled work ethic had landed the band on Capitol.

What I Think of This Album

Dismiss them as grunge carpetbaggers if you want (though you’d be wrong to), but then you also have to agree that there is more to Everclear than your average Sponge or Silverchair. In fact, Art Alexakis is a masterful storyteller who knows exactly how to work pop and Americana into his hard rock framework to come up with some of the most compelling and catchy songs about blue-collar urban despair ever to emanate from a pair of speakers.

I don’t know to what degree these songs are autobiographical or if they’re pure fiction, and I don’t care. It really makes no difference to me. What matters is that Alexakis sells the shit out of the narratives; he fills them with life and makes them true, regardless of whether they are real. Undoubtedly, his own experiences inform his songwriting and his lived pain influences the passion and sincerity of his delivery, but not everyone is mature or talented enough to tap into those feelings with such clarity and purpose. The man may or may not be a dick, but he is definitely an artist.

The heart(spark) of the album is the material that moves away from the noise of the band’s earlier work and figures out how to marry the energy of that time with a more melodic approach. Massive hit “Santa Monica” and other tracks (including personal favorite “Heartspark Dollarsign”) are really modern updates of the sound that X valiantly sought to popularize, and again, Alexakis is no less a raconteur than John Doe and Exene Cervenka. Yes, some of the lyrics may be a bit on the nose and there is little poetry to the lyrics, but this is gritty, realist storytelling of the highest order. Put another way, if Social Distortion is punk and country together, then Everclear is hard rock and country together.

I once read a story that Alexakis was invited to play at his daughter’s preschool or kindergarten and he performed a rewritten version of “You Make Me Feel Like a Whore” that was called “You Make Me Feel Like I’m Four.” That is fantastic.

Everclear thanks like a million people in the liner notes, including Belly, X, Tom Petty, Social Distortion, the Poster Children, Small Factory, and Magnapop.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Heartspark Dollarsign,” motherfucker.

Release Date

May, 1995

The Cover Art

I know that that’s chocolate cake, but my first thought is always always always that it’s poop. And I am not into poop.

The Shirelles – Greatest Hits

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

As much as I like the girl-group genre, there are some large holes in my collection. I own the One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found box set, but that’s all rarities and obscurities. I have the Phil Spector Back to Mono box set as well, though I am not sure how complete of an overview it offers of the Ronettes or the Crystals. My Motown box set has some Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, and Velvelettes but again, is not comprehensive. I own no Shangri-Las. For the record, I have never liked Diana Ross’s voice and have no intention of getting a Supremes comp. But I am glad I own this Shirelles album. Formed while they were still in high school in New Jersey in 1957, the Shirelles were Shirley Owens, Doris Cooley, Addie “Mickie” Harris, and Beverly Lee. They were signed to a contract by Florence Greenberg, a literally bored New Jersey housewife who, in her mid-forties, decided to go into the music business and started the label Tiara Records. Not the first girl-group, but probably the first girl-group that found major success, the Shirelles worked with Luther Dixon to craft their unique sound. Dionne Warwick sometimes stepped in for absent members for live performances. Harris died in 1982, and Cooley passed in 2000.

What I Think of This Album

This extremely bare-bones budget CD is nonetheless adequate unless you are a very hardcore Shirelles fan. It is disappointing that there is zero information included in the booklet, but hey – it’s got the songs.

The album runs through twelve Shirelles songs, not in any particular order, spanning the years 1958-1964. As far as I can tell, all the chart hits are here:  “Soldier Boy;” “Dedicated to the One I Love;” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow;” “Mama Said;” “Foolish Little Girl;” and “Baby It’s You.”

Notably, both “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Tonight’s the Night” concerned losing one’s virginity, which was risky subject matter back then. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” was a Carole King and Gerry Goffin song. Burt Bacharach was one of the songwriters of “Baby Its You.” King Curtis played sax on “Boys.”

Florence Greenberg ended up running labels that released:  “Louie, Louie;” “Twist and Shout;” and . . . uh . . . “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.” The Shirelles sued her when they learned that a trust fund she had promised to set up and keep for them did not exist. She passed away in 1995.

Luther Dixon wrote many of these Shirelles hits, as well as “16 Candles.” He died in 2009.

The Beatles included covers of “Boys” (sung by Ringo!) and “Baby It’s You” on Please Please Me.

The Best Thing About This Album

 Fucking all of it. The vocals. The songwriting. The arrangements. ALL. OF. IT.

Release Date

1991

The Cover Art

I can’t believe I actually found this cover online. It’s awful.

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