A collection of pop tunes and powerful love songs by the Jelly Beans and the other artists who had hits for the Tiger, Red Bird and Blue Cat labels between 1963 and 1966.
The Jelly Beans: Alma Brewer, Diane Taylor, Elyse Herbert, Maxine Herbert, Charles Thomas.
Liner Note Author: Mark Marymont.
This CD gets the highest possible rating, not so much because of the Jelly Beans' stuff -- though it is good -- but everything else on it. There are only ten Jelly Beans songs present on this cornucopia of girl-group and East Coast soul classics and obscurities, the other eight comprising work of acts associated with the Leiber-Stoller-Red Bird orbit, plus a few unrelated tracks that just seem to fit. The Jelly Beans' songs include a good selection of girl-group standards, among them "The Kind of Boy You Can't Forget," "Chapel of Love," and "Do Wah Diddy." The arrangements and the presence of a male singer in Charles Thomas gives some of the repertoire ("Ain't Love a Funny Thing," etc.) more of a doo wop feel than most girl-group material, but some of the singing also displays the rudiments of mid-'60s soul. "Baby Be Mine" might have made a great Phil Spector-style track in the manner of the Crystals' "Uptown" or "He's a Rebel," if the producers had pushed the echo chamber effects a bit more, and might have had a better shot at becoming a hit, too. Other songs, such as "Whisper Sweet Things," have them sounding a lot more like the early Supremes. The rest of this CD is made up of recordings by various contemporaries of the Jelly Beans, some closer than others -- Ellie Greenwich was "The Butterflies," a sort of adjunct to her efforts with Jeff Barry as "The Raindrops," her minor hit "Goodnight Baby" is here, but the real treat is her version of "I Wonder," which is very nicely sung, and has the rudiments of Spector-style production -- almost like a Spector demo -- but is also paced more leisurely, and with somewhat different emphasis, than the rendition by the Crystals that ultimately defined the song; but it can be considered the songwriter's interpretation of the piece. Bessie Banks' version of "Go Now," cut for Red Bird's predecessor label Tiger, may be the most obscure American original of a British Invasion hit that there is, never having been a hit; she's infinitely more soulful and moving than Denny Laine, the horns add a dimension of majesty to the song, and by itself this cut is worth the price of this CD. Evie Sands' original version of "I Can't Let Go" (later a hit for the Hollies) is in the same category of lost treasure, and could have been an early Supremes number. More early mid-'60s girl-group/soul includes the Charmettes ("Stop the Wedding") and the Ad Libs' "The Boy from New York City" and "He Ain't No Angel." Also present is "Rebel Without a Cause" by the Bunnies, a genuinely obscure girl group. ~ Bruce Eder