Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bobby Day - Rockin' Robin /The Very Best Of (With Bob & Earl)

An important cog in Los Angeles' doo wop community during the '50s, Bobby Day wrote three often-covered early rock classics in 1957-1958. Day was part of the Hollywood Flames, one of the area's top R&B vocal groups, and briefly part of Bob & Earl, later to hit without Day on "Harlem Shuffle." Day formed his own group, the Satellites, in 1957, cutting the original "Little Bitty Pretty One" for Class Records. A nearly identical cover by Thurston Harris beat the original out, so Day countered with the driving "Rockin' Robin" in 1958, an R&B chart-topper. Its flip, "Over and Over," was a hit in its own right, although the Dave Clark Five's 1965 revival is better remembered today. Day waxed a few more hits for Class in 1959, including "That's All I Want" and a derivative "The Bluebird, the Buzzard & the Oriole," flitting from label to label during the '60s.


Is this the ultimate Bobby Day compilation? With 28 songs from the late '50s and early '60s, including half a dozen that he did as part of Bob & Earl and detailed track by track liner notes, you would think so. Even admitting that he was a fine early rock & roll singer, 28 songs by Day might be too much, though. The fact is that a good number of the singles collected here sounded similar to each other, and sometimes seemed like strained attempts to make derivative knockoffs of his best-known hits, the great "Rockin' Robin," "Over and Over," and the original version of "Little Bitty Pretty One" (which are the first three cuts on the CD). Still, it has its interest as a document of five years or so in the career of a guy who was not so much an R&B performer adapting to trends, as many in the early Los Angeles rock scene were, as someone who made records that were rock & roll, not R&B in the transition to rock & roll. For standouts in the track lineup, you might want to hear Bob & Earl's original 1958 version of the ballad "Gee Whiz," which would be a Top Thirty hit in 1961 for the Innocents. There are a few other ballads throughout the set, but Day's forte was actually up-tempo rock & roll, even though his likable, oh so slightly raw-edged vocals were more interesting than the (save for the three hits) often generic material. The 1962 obscurity "Oop-I-Du-Pers-Ball" has to rate as one of the more eccentric twist records of the early '60s, Day's all-out raucous vocals transcending to some degree the trivial novelty that the song actually was. Three of the songs are previously unissued alternate takes.

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