Various Artists – The Red Bird Girls (review)

Various Artists – The Red Bird Girls – Very First Time in True Stereo 1964-1966 (Real Gone Music) review

For fans of the girl group sound, this is like finding the Holy Grail.  While digging through the archives, the folks at Real Gone Records stumbled upon actual session tapes from the famed Red Bird label, the company run by songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and home to many of the finest girl groups in history.  The only way these songs had been released before was in the mono single versions.  These tapes, released as The Red Bird Girls – Very First Time in True Stereo 1964-1966, showcases some familiar favorites, alongside rarities presented in clear stereo sound for the very first time.
For years dismissed as “fluff,” the girl group era has finally been recognized as a key link between early rock n’ roll and the later British Invasion – getting lots of airplay on Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel.  More importantly, behind some of the bouncy backing tracks are some incredibly emotional performances.  Take for instance, Bessie Banks’ original “Go Now,” later the first hit for the Moody Blues – her impassioned delivery is full of sadness.  Evie Sands excellent singing on “I Can’t Let Go” begs the question of why this wasn’t a hit for her and not the Hollies?

Some of the tracks are familiar – “The Boy From New York City” by the Ad Libs features the same backing track, but a different vocalist than the released version.  Others are more rare, as in the Phil Spector-esque “I Wonder” from the Butterflies.  There are several great tracks from Ellie Greenwich, who tried to make it as a performer, before becoming one of the most successful songwriters of the Sixties.

As the title suggests, this collection presents these tracks in stereo for the first time.  The biggest improvement is in the fidelity in both the bass and high end.  Despite the mix of hits and rarities, The Red Bird Girls is solid from top to bottom and highly recommended for any fan of the genre. –Tony Peters