Nine volumes in, and Ace’s Where the Girls Are series is still turning up hidden-gems from the girl group era! As is often the case with this series, the names behind-the-scenes are often more familiar than those headlining the record. Where the Girls Are Volume 9 , released earlier this year, features 25 more tracks from America in the 1960s – the golden age of girl groups and “girl pop” – in their original mono versions.
Future Philly soul architect Leon Huff penned The Sweet Three’s effervescent “That’s the Way It Is (When a Girl’s in Love)” which opens Volume 9. The 1966 track is more pop than soul, with a sparkling Jimmy “Wiz” Wisner arrangement flecked with brass and strings, but it wasn’t long before the Jean Thomas-led trio was recording as The Mellow Moods for Gamble and Huff’s North Bay and Gamble labels. A different Jean Thomas – this time of New York, not Philadelphia – has the lead on The Rag Dolls’ “Society Girl,” a Bob Crewe production that answers The Four Seasons’ famous song which gave the group its name.
Crewe and Huff are far from the only famed behind-the-scenes personnel represented here. Ace has already spotlighted the songwriting/producing team of Feldman-Gottehrer-Goldstein on a compendium dedicated to the trio; they are showcased here by Diane Christian’s sassy ode to a “Little Boy.” Maverick producer Lee Hazlewood and arranger Jack Nitzsche (both subjects of multiple Ace compilations) collaborated on vocalist Ramona King’s dancer, “Ballyhoo.” Christine Cooper’s smoky recording of “(They Call Him A) Bad Boy” originated with Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz’s Super K factory in its pre-bubblegum days; on the other end of the spectrum, soul titan Van McCoy (yes, another subject of an essential Ace release!) helmed The Darlettes’ “Sweet Kind of Loneliness” which lives up to its name with lead singer Francine Hurd’s honeyed vocal.
But the most renowned girl-group name here is Ellie Greenwich. She moonlighted as The Popsicles for both “I Don’t Want to Be Your Baby Anymore” and “Baby I Miss You,” two songs from songwriters Mark Barkan and Ben Raleigh (perhaps best known for “She’s a Fool,” “That’s the Way Boys Are” and many others) released on GNP Crescendo in 1965 and reprised here. Another uncredited legend here is Motown’s Brenda Holloway, who supplies the impassioned lead vocal on The Wooden Nickels’ “More Than a Friend,” adding a touch of class to Chester and Gary Pipkin’s ballad
There are a few familiar names here among the artists roster, too. Evie Sands of “I Can’t Let Go” fame appears with the characteristically rocking “Billy Sunshine” from the team of writer-producers Chip Taylor and Al Gorgoni. Reparata and the Delrons, already chronicled on an Ace set, deliver “Mama Don’t Allow” (1965) with its frenetically honking horns. The Murmaids’ upbeat “Don’t Forget” is reprised from their recent volume, accurately titled A Few of the Things We Love.
As with any Where the Girls Are volume, there are plenty of keepers from artists with whom one might not be familiar. Roddie Joy’s “Something Strange is Going On” bears a sophisticated arrangement from veteran composer-conductor Artie Butler. One of the most spirited tracks on the collection comes from Los Angeles’ Francettes, the ode to a “Young Daddy.” The Bitter Sweets’ dark and melodramatic “What a Lonely Way to Start the Summertime” was penned by Brute Force and may be the best Shangri-Las record the group never made, while The Flowers channel Phil Spector on the dramatic “On a Rainy Night.”
A trio of previously unreleased recordings premiere here. The mysterious Bluezettes’ swooning, devoted “With a Kiss” is from the “98.6” team of George Fischoff and Tony Powers. (The song was also recorded by Kiki Dee.) Bert Berns and (his wife) Ilene Stuart’s “I’ll Come Running Over” was popularized by Lulu, but it’s nearly as enjoyable in the loose, raw rendition by Cincinnati’s Two of Clubs. Finally, Darlene Love and The Blossoms handle the vocal interjections on guitarist-arranger Billy Strange’s instrumental “Moon Walking.”
Consistent with other volumes in the series, Ace has lavished this release with a colorful 16-page booklet containing comprehensive track-by-track annotations from compiler Mick Patrick. Nick Robbins has splendidly remastered all songs. Where the Girls Are Volume 9 is available now at the links below!
- That’s The Way It Is (When A Girl’s In Love) – The Sweet Three
- Society Girl – The Rag Dolls
- Little Boy – Diane Christian
- I Don’t Want To Be Your Baby Anymore – The Popsicles
- What A Lonely Way To Start The Summertime – The Bitter Sweets
- Something Strange Is Going On – Roddie Joy
- Billy Sunshine – Evie Sands
- Come Down – Honey Ltd
- With A Kiss – The Bluezettes
- Don’t Forget – The Murmaids
- Can Tell (I’m Losing Your Love) – Lena Calhoun & The Emotions
- You Better Stop It – The Lovelites
- I’ll Come Running Over – 2 Of Clubs
- Mama Don’t Allow – Reparata & The Delrons
- Ballyhoo – Ramona King
- Who Stole The Cookie – The Jaynetts
- Young Daddy – The Francettes
- I Need A Boy – The Penny Sisters
- (They Call Him A) Bad Boy – Christine Cooper
- What Did You Do Last Night – The Drake Sisters
- Baby I Miss You – The Popsicles
- On A Rainy Night – The Flowers
- Sweet Kind Of Loneliness – The Darlettes
- More Than A Friend – The Wooden Nickels
- Moon Walking – The Blossoms with Billy Strange