Various Artists – The Girl Can’t Help It – The Greatest Rock n’ Roll Film of the 1950’s (Fantastic Voyage) review
The classic soundtrack – on steroids. And, it also acts as a great history of early rock n’ roll
In 1956, rock n’ roll was still taboo in many homes across the country. So, for Hollywood to assemble some of the genre’s boldest new stars (Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino) and put them in a comedy featuring the voluptuous Jayne Mansfield, was a really big deal. For many, it was their first exposure to this exciting new music. Fantastic Voyage pays tribute not only to the movie, but to the musicians involved in the film through the release of The Girl Can’t Help It, a three-disc, greatly expanded version of the original soundtrack.
Instead of including just the songs from the soundtrack, the compilers have added other songs by the artists that were in the movie. The 16 tracks from Little Richard are worth the price all by themselves, featuring two versions of “Girl Can’t Help It,” plus all 12 tracks from his blistering debut album, Here’s Little Richard, and “Lucille” and “All Around the World,” essentially giving you the best of Little Richard in this set.
Gene Vincent performed “Be Bop a Lula” in the actual movie, and that’s augmented by seven other killer tracks, including the scandalous “Woman Love,” which was banned by many US radio stations. Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock” appears in both its UK and rarer US single versions, as well as five other tracks – “Teenage Heaven” is particularly nice.
Fats Domino’s “Blue Monday” was in the film. That’s here, along with five other classic tunes, including smashes like “Ain’t That a Shame.” The Platters have nine tracks represented, including their song from the film, “You’ll Never Never Know,” and other greats like “The Great Pretender,” and “Only You.” Plus, you get a few tracks featuring their female singer, Zola Taylor – “Bark, Battle & Ball” and “He’s Mine,” which show off a different side of the band.
There were also bands in the film who are more obscure, but no less enjoyable. Take the Treniers for example. Their “Rockin’ is Our Bizness” was in the movie – one of the earliest examples of rock n’ roll, dating from 1954, plus six other high-octane tracks. Nino Tempo surprises with his freaked out saxophone on “Tempo’s Tempo,” and the Three Chuckles sounded downright scandalous with “Cinnamon Sinner.”
Of course, more tame artists also appeared (and were listed more prominently in the credits), like Julie London, and Ray Anthony. Thankfully, they’re put near the end of the discs. The Julie London material is pretty cool torch singing. The Ray Anthony songs sound out of date mixed in with the rock n’ roll. There’s even a hidden track at the end featuring Jayne Mansfield herself in “Just Plain Jayne.”
Fantastic Voyage continues to come up with clever compilations – ways of looking back at the past in new and different ways. With The Girl Can’t Help It, they help celebrate one of rock’s great movies, and in turn, help champion the early days of rock n’ roll by spotlighting artists both legendary and obscure. –Tony Peters