Real Gone Music/RCA 2014
Happy And In Love/The Shirelles
Review by David Bowling
In many ways the Shirelles set the standard for the girl-group sound that was so popular during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s pre-Beatles era. Songs such as “Dedicated To The One I Love,” “Tonights The Night,” “Mama Said,” “Baby It’s You,” plus their two number one hits, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Soldier Boy” propelled the group into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Dozens of compilation albums have been issued over the last half-century or so containing their well-known hits. Now, Real Gone Music has traveled a different road in exploring their legacy.
Shirley Owens, Doris Coley, Addie Harris, and Beverly Lee formed the group while in high school during 1957. The hits ran out with the advent of the British Invasion and Coley left in 1968. After an acrimonious split with their label, the three remaining members released music on several labels until they signed with RCA in the early 1970’s.
Now for the first time on CD, Real Gone Music has issued their two RCA albums, Happy And In Love (1971) and The Shirelles (1972). They were trying to update their sound and become relevant again. In that regard they were unsuccessful as the albums received little commercial success. In some ways the music probably sounds better today than it did at the time of its release.
Happy And In Love was a somewhat rushed affair as they drew on tracks that had been previously released as singles for the United Artists and Bell labels. Still, when you look at the tracks individually, there is some credible material. There is a creative and funky cover of the Guess Who’s “No Sugar Tonight,” while “Strange I Still Love You” is a romantic ballad. They also resurrect “Dedicated To The One I Love” with a little more background substance. “We Got A Lot Of Lovin’ To Do” is an upbeat song that stays with you and would have made a good single.
Their self-titled 1972 follow-up is a little more cohesive and more in tune with the times. Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” the Bee Gees “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” and Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” bring their sound into the modern age. A Marvin Gaye medley of “Mercy Mercy Me/Inner City Blues/What’s Going On” is interesting by being presented by a female group.
They released two singles for the label in 1973 and they appear as bonus tracks. “Let’s Give Each Other Love” and “Do What You’ve A Mind To” were both slick pop pieces but when they failed to chart, their time with RCA came to an end.
The music of the Shirelles has inhabited oldies radio for decades. It’s nice to have some deeper cuts from their catalogue back in circulation.