Friday, May 8, 2009

The Clovers

So how do you put together a “Best Of” or “Greatest Hits.” Well it’s not so difficult. Say you are record company person doing this. Ok. First you take Whitburn, his Top 100 reference, or, if space is limited and the artist is particularly prolific, his Top 40 reference. Working with your chosen reference volume, you take each and every song on the list and add it to the collection. Then you pick one song at random (there may be a method to it actually, but I’ve never been able to discern one) and remove it. Replace it with an arbitrary entry, a B side for example, an lp track, or a failed single. Then release it like that, so that every collector who buys it has to search high and low for the missing track.

Am I being facetious? Not really. Sometimes it’s more than one track missing, but the idea is the same. With box sets they take the artist’s biggest hit (or hits) and replace it with a live rendtion (After Midnight on Crossroads by Eric Clapton), or an alternate recording (Suite: Judy Blue Eyes on CSN by Crosby, Stills & Nash). With single discs (or what used to be LPs) they arbitrarily leave off, typically, one song. The Best Of Percy Sledge was missing Love Me Tender, The Early Years by The Small Faces (it had their Decca recordings) was missing My Mind’s Eye (which, interestingly was their only UK number 1 on that label). And on and on.

The Clovers had two top 100 singles. That’s it. The first was Love, Love, Love on Atlantic. The second was Love Potion No. 9, on UA. So here is Rhino, collaborating with WEA and UA, and Rhino usually gets these things right, and they put together The Very Best Of The Clovers, and out of two top 100 singles, one is there, one is not.

I imagine they do this because of some determination that chart placement does not reflect artistic quality, and of course there is merit to that, but record collectors tend to be somewhat neurotic, inhabiting a world in which “having every single they put on the charts” is more important than having “the best singles they ever made.” Normally, there would be some overlap, and I understand the snobs that put this together thinking the Love, Love, Love was so poppy as to be out of character for the Clovers, inferior to their showstoppers like Your Cash Ain’t Nothing But Trash or Blue Velvet, but hey, give us obsessives a break. We should all be speaking the same language here…

My original collection had four tracks, Love, Lov,e Love, Blue Velvet, and Devil Or Angel all picked up off of Atlantic Rhythm And Blues 1947 – 1974, and Love Potion No. 9 from the American Graffiti soundtrack. But recently I picked this collection up at La Grande Bibliotheque. And I got Love, Love, Love from a separate CD, Dance Party / The Clovers.

The Clovers

Don’t You Know I Love You – The lyrics are as simple as can be. You don’t know what you are throwing away, they sing. Someday you’ll get it. But… she’ll never get it. The real message is in that shuffle rhythm, in those “oh’s” in the background, the sax and piano break…
Fool, Fool, Fool – How to beat yourself up, in two and a half minutes of R & B.
One Mint Julep – One lousy cocktail, and he ended up with a wife and a houseful of kids (six extra, just for “getting’ frisky”) – a bit over the top, but I guess that’s the point. I think the piano suits the mint flavour of the drink. Ray Charles covered this.
Ting-A-Ling – The title represents the sound of his heart. I’d get it checked out. I’m young and I’m free, they sing, in what may be the ultimate statement of rock and roll attitude.
I Played The Fool – Another song of heartbreak and regret, with a pinch of philosophy thrown in.
Hey, Miss Fannie – Another walking down the street song. Pick up the beat on this one. You’ll become my heart’s disease, the singers sings, in what may be the sweetest declaration of love this side of Transylvania.
Good Lovin’ – Jivin R & B, not the Olymics / Young Rascals song.
Lovey Dovey – The song took on a life of its own. Clyde McPhatter, Buddy Knox, and Otis Redding & Carla Thomas all put this on pop charts, which is more than The Clovers did. All about peaches and trees.
Little Mama – Not exactly an ode to maternal matters…
Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash – Well if nothing else it’s a great title. But it’s more, a song about selling out, or more precisely, a song about not selling out…
Blue Velvet – Originally a hit by Tony Bennett, who did a nice rendition, and later by Bobby Vinton, who did a wimpy version. But this is the best. A Beautiful song of those tangible memories that are so hard to describe.
Devil Or Angel – There is real bond here, it’s easy to be in love with an angel, but to love a devil… Bobby Vee covered this, and I disagree with Dave Marsh, who says that he “corrupted” it, but this is definitely better.
Love, Love, Love – Their only Atlantic single to make the pop chart. From the summer of 1956, and also a hit for The Diamonds.
Down In The Alley – Elvis covered this on one of his mid 60s soundtracks. Cool
Pennies From Heaven – A standard. I have this by Al Hibbler, but I like this version much better. They make it sound like genuine R & B.
Love Potion Number 9 – So they switched from Atlantic to United Artists and had the biggest hit of their career, and the song for which they are best remembered. A hit from the fall of 1959. The Searchers put it back in the top 10 in 1964. I have a version somewhere by Gary Lewis And The Playboys. The version, by the way, on the American Graffiti soundtrack was slightly different, with a reference to love potion number 10 somewhere toward the end, and I understand that that was not the original recording.
Lovey – A song about a sweater. Well almost. There ought to be a law, go the lyrics, against you walking down the street. Now that gives a whole new angle to the concept…

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