One of the most popular Merseybeat singers, Billy J. Kramer (born Billy Ashton) was one of the most mild-mannered rockers of the entire British Invasion. He wasn't that noteworthy a singer, either, and more likely than not would have never been heard outside of northern England if he hadn't been fortunate enough to become a client of Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Even more crucially, he was gifted with several Lennon-McCartney songs in 1963 and 1964, several of which the Beatles never ended up recording. That gave him his entrance into the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, but Kramer couldn't sustain his success after the supply of Lennon-McCartney tunes dried up. Significant? No. Enjoyable? Yes. Even tossing aside the considerable value of hearing otherwise unavailable Lennon-McCartney compositions, his best singles were enjoyably wimpy, melodic pop/rock, offering a guilty pleasure comparable to taking a break from Faulkner and diving into some superhero comics.
Helen Shapiro is remembered today by younger pop culture buffs as the slightly awkward actress/singer in Richard Lester's 1962 debut feature film, It's Trad, Dad. From 1961 until 1963, however, Shapiro was England's teenage pop music queen, at one point selling 40,000 copies daily of her biggest single, "Walking Back to Happiness," during a 19-week chart run. A deceptively young 14 when she was discovered, Shapiro had a rich, expressive voice properly sounding like the property of someone twice as old, and she matured into a seasoned professional very quickly.
Born John Barry Prendergast to a father who owned a cinema and a mother who played piano, all the elements were in place for John to develop his career as he did. Even when he had to do national service, he managed to secure a job as an army bandsman, so he managed to use that period to hone his craft. John first came to prominence via his recording of Hit and miss, which became the theme to the TV show Jukebox jury. Famous as his TV theme became, John's most famous hit is the James Bond theme. This particular compilation, as its title suggests, focuses on John's recordings for EMI. Many of these recordings date from the early to mid sixties, but there are a few from the nineties too. Most of the tracks are instrumentals, but there are also three Shirley Bassey tracks (Goldfinger, Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Diamonds are forever) and a Matt Monro track (Born free) in which John was involved. Two of the Shirley Bassey tracks are famous, but I'd not heard the other one before buying this CD. It was apparently intended as the theme for Thunderball but was dropped in favor of the Tom Jones song Thunderball. There are 25 tracks altogether and the CD comes with a nice booklet. By no means a definitive John Barry compilation, this does at least contain all those early sixties tracks that I particularly wanted and showcases John's versatility as a composer and arranger. Sadly, John died early in 2011 but his legacy in the history of cinematic music is assured.
Hootie & the Blowfish never were cut out to be superstars. They were meant to be the best band at the local bar. They were ordinary guys, and they played ordinary music, the kind that could be heard in any college town on the East Coast or Midwest during the early '90s when the local bar wasn't having grunge night. It was the ordinariness of the music on their 1994 debut, Cracked Rear View, that connected with millions of American listeners – they sounded like everybody's favorite local band. Once they were superstars, their bubble burst fairly quickly as the 1996 follow-up sold considerably fewer than the debut, and by the end of the decade, they had settled into a reliable routine of turning out modest records and touring steadily, without many people outside of their core fans noticing. Their popularity might have declined, but as the 2004 Atlantic/Rhino compilation The Best of Hootie & the Blowfish (1993 Thru 2003) illustrates, their music changed very little over the course of the decade, nor did the quality of their music decline.
In 1970, Elektra Records released a Doors hits collection called 13. In 1971, the Doors scored two more hits, "Love Her Madly" and "Riders on the Storm," and their lead singer, Jim Morrison, died. In 1972, Elektra released a two-LP anthology containing "Love Her Madly" and "Riders on the Storm," along with a lot of album tracks. But there was no single-LP compilation that contained all the Doors' hits, from "Light My Fire" to "Riders on the Storm." This 11-track 1973 album was an attempt to address that problem, and at the time of its release, containing seven of the Doors' eight Top 40 hits (the exception being "The Unknown Soldier"), it was the best Doors greatest-hits collection on the market…
Formed in Los Angeles in 1981, The Bangles are an American band, who had several hit singles through out the 1980s. The bands hits included "Walk Like An Egyptian", "Hazy Shade Of Winter", and the 1989 No.1 single "Eternal Flame". The band officially broke-up in 1989 but almost ten years later, in 1998, started drifting back together . In 1999, they officially re-formed to record a song for the soundtrack of "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me". The reunion continued with a tour in 2000 and in 2003 they released, "Doll Revolution", their first album since 1988's "Everything". Their classic line-up consisted of Michael Steele on bass and vocals, founding members Susanna Hoffs on vocals and rhythm guitar, Debbi Peterson on drums and vocals, and Vicki Peterson on lead guitar and vocals. In 2005, The Bangles announced the departure of Michael Steele who left due to artistic disputes over touring and recording.
The Best of Chuck Mangione collects various tracks from the smooth jazz pioneer's '80s Columbia recordings. While not as influential as Mangione's '70s output, his '80s albums retain much of what made him so popular an artist – catchy hooks, lush production and his clear, crisp trumpet sound. Included are such standout tracks as "Journey to a Rainbow," "Love Bug Boogie" and "Memories of Scirocco." Oddly, a live version of "Land of Make Believe" and the single version of "Feels So Good" make it on to this collection. These '70s hits don't really belong here, but should satisfy casual fans looking for his most popular recordings alongside his mid-career stuff.