Eight volumes in, the “Where The Girls Are” compilations show no sign of fatigue. Even those like myself, who have spent much too much time mining the girl group vaults, will be pleased by the unfamiliar titles and artists featured here. Each volume of the series offers further proof that the vast reservoir of girl pop singles lurking below the obvious heavy-hitters is filled with gold.
The 60s girl group sound – whether teen pop, deep soul or rock’n’roll, East Coast or West Coast, solo or group – was driven by a hunger for hits that spawned an excess of truly excellent material, whose quality could not always be determined by sales figures or chart positions. The possibility of a hit drove the writers, arrangers, singers and labels to work their damnedest, whether dreaming up their own sonic palate or hopping on the Spector/Motown/Shangri-Las bandwagon. All shared ambition. Many had a knack for a great tune. Volume 8 continues to pay tribute to the forgotten and the fabulous, unearthing obscurities by the Witches, the Darlenes, Carole Slade and Diane Christian as well as lesser-known cuts by more established acts such as the Orlons, Sherrys and Blossoms, who sparkle in blue on the cover and open the CD with ‘Cry Like A Baby’, a chiming soul ballad penned by Ashford and Simpson. Normally it wouldn't be advisable to take on a song cut by Aretha Franklin, but if anyone can compete, surely it’s the Blossoms’ Darlene Love.
Some of the best girl-pop 45s were made by those who outright stole from the in-sound. Phil Spector’s reverberations were felt across America and caught the ear of Al Allen, who wrote and produced the Bonnets’ ‘Ya Gotta Take A Chance’. It unabashedly copies the Spector formula, but also manages to capture the hooks and thunder. Nikki Blu took equally from the Spector and Motown catalogues on ‘(Whoa, Whoa) I Love Him So’, produced by Chubby Checker and co-written by Thom Bell during his brief stint as a session piano player at Cameo Parkway. Nikki Blu was in fact Marlena Davis of the Orlons, who recorded this one-off single soon after her departure from the group. Despite losing two original members, the Orlons continued their singles output until 1968. ‘I Ain’t Coming Back’ was one of their final Cameo 45s, and produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. It must’ve been difficult to decide on a Sapphires track; they had an exceptionally strong run of singles, which varied from sultry late-night soul to the warm and upbeat ‘Gotta Have Your Love’.
Tracks by the Four Havens, Fran-Cettes and Del-Phis make their debut here, having never been given an official release before. There’s no telling just how many demos, acetates and yet-to-be-discovered girl group gems will find their way to the surface, but as long as compilers Mick Patrick and Malcolm Baumgart keep digging, we’re sure to enjoy further volumes of “Where the Girls Are” for years to come.
By Sheila Burgel