Pop Music: The Golden Era 1951-1975 CD Review

Music
Pop Music: The Golden Era 1951-1975. This 2-CD collection is a bit different than many compilations in that Pop songs are the focus, not rock, and not “easy listening” but Top 40 songs covering from pre-rock ‘n’ roll to the soft rock of the 1970s (sort-of back to easy listening in a way). All the songs are from labels that are now owned by Sony Music: Columbia, Epic, Okeh, Monument, and a few others. A 68-page booklet includes general commentary and some background and context for each song.

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The first disk opens with Frank Sinatra singing “Birth of the Blues.” This 1952 song is previous to his famous Capitol and Reprise years, but is an outstanding track and points to his later swinging years. The early 1950s music can be real hit (Frankie Laine’s “Jezebel”)-or-miss (Rosemary Clooney’s “Come-On-a-My-House”), but most of these tracks are excellent picks. The excessively emotive Johnnie Ray helped paved the way for Rock ‘n’ Roll. Sinatra hated Ray’s singing. And “Sitting on the Corner, watching all the girls go by,” good grief! That song has the line “Brother you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking”! Leering and masturbatory fantasies must have been OK in Eisenhower’s day. Or as the booklet says, “Men were men, and women were watched.”

We forget that Rock ‘n’ Roll didn’t completely take over in the mid 1950s. Smooth crooning kept topping the charts even after the US arrival of the Beatles in 1964.

Disk 1 seems to go rather smoothly with Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Bobby Vinton, Doris Day, etc, until “Hey Little Cobra” by The Rip Cords. A drag racing song seems out of place amongst all these smooth pop songs. This song is also where the style of music begins to change, influenced by stripped-down rock. A very early Tony Orlando song, “Bless You,” sounds more like and Atlantic Records R & B tune by the Drifters than the easy listening sounds of Andy Williams and Tony Bennett.

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There is no accounting for taste, as my grandmother used to say. The candidate for worst song ever “Down in the Boondocks” by Billy Joe Royal is on here. Bookended by two outstanding songs, The Yardbirds “For Your Love” and Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Kicks,” the contrast is so sharp with “Boondocks” that one has to wonder if the compilers actually listened to it or just put it on out of convenience.

The disk closes with Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” which brings us to 1965. (Actually “Kicks” was 1966 so the disks are not in strict chronological order.)

Disk 2 starts with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds and ends with four R&B hits such as you don’t find Black artists doing anymore. I probably don’t need to talk as much about disk 2 as this is the music that we are all more familiar with. This set is overall an excellent sampling of the times, and is recommended for those with eclectic taste. You can buy Individual MP3s. They have other collections as well, Pop Music: The Early Years 1890-1950and Pop Music: The Modern Era 1976-1999.

Disk 1
1. The Birth Of The Blues Frank Sinatra
2. Because Of You Tony Bennett
3. Jezebel Frankie Laine
4. Come On-A My House Rosemary Clooney
5. Cry Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads
6. You Belong To Me Jo Stafford
7. The Yellow Rose Of Texas Mitch Miller
8. Mack The Knife Louis Armstrong
9. Standing On The Corner The Four Lads with Ray Ellis & His Orchestra & Chorus
10. Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera) Doris Day
11. Singing The Blues Guy Mitchell with Ray Conniff & his Orchestra
12. Chances Are Johnny Mathis
13. Summertime, Summertime The Jamies
14. Theme From “A Summer Place” Percy Faith & His Orchestra
15. Moon River Andy Williams
16. Bless You Tony Orlando
17. I Left My Heart In San Francisco Tony Bennett
18. Blue Velvet Bobby Vinton
19. People Barbra Streisand
20. Ruby Baby Dion
21. The Monkey Time Major Lance
22. Hey Little Cobra The Rip Chords
23. Before And After Chad & Jeremy
24. For Your Love The Yardbirds
25. Down In The Boondocks Billy Joe Royal
26. Kicks Paul Revere & The Raiders
27. Like A Rolling Stone Bob Dylan

Disc 2
1. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) The Byrds
2. Red Rubber Ball The Cyrkle
3. Sunshine Superman Donovan
4. Don’t You Care The Buckinghams
5. San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) Scott McKenzie
6. Carrie-Anne The Hollies
7. Itchycoo Park Small Faces
8. Stoned Soul Picnic Laura Nyro
9. Time Of The Season The Zombies
10. Young Girl The Union Gap
11. You’ve Made Me So Very Happy Blood, Sweat & Tears
12. Hot Fun In The Summertime Sly & The Family Stone
13. Evil Ways Santana
14. Bridge Over Troubled Water Simon And Garfunkel
15. 25 Or 6 To 4 Chicago
16. Me And Bobby McGee Janis Joplin
17. Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl) Looking Glass
18. I Can See Clearly Now Johnny Nash
19. Your Mama Don’t Dance Loggins & Messina
20. I Can Help Billy Swan
21. Love Train The O’Jays
22. That Lady (Part 1) The Isley Brothers
23. Lady Marmalade Labelle
24. Shining Star Earth, Wind & Fire

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4 thoughts on “Pop Music: The Golden Era 1951-1975 CD Review

  1. Judging by this compilation and others like it, you would think the Beatles weren’t that popular. Time Life puts out a huge compilation with hundreds of songs… not a Beatlse tune to be found.

    Obviously, it’s due to the fact that they are verboten unless you want to pay a billion dollars to use them… but I sometimes wonder if kids today get a distorted impression of how popular the fab four were, when they seem to be absent on every single 60’s mix.

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    1. It used to be the same way with Elvis. You could buy dozens of oldies collections and never have one Elvis song. This set is pretty strictly limited to the labels Columbia and Epic, so that limits what songs they will have.

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