If you’re in the business of producing boxed sets of CDs, and your intent is to put together the Big Kahuna of oldies collections, one that includes the best from the 1950’s through the 1980’s, I can’t imagine a more potent combination than Dick Clark and Time-Life. Think about it. A company that has corralled just about every recording from every musician since the days of Caruso on a wax cylinder – or at least it seems that way – teaming up with a guy who has built his name by spending a half-century promoting and presenting rock and roll.
Well folks, the result of that meeting of the minds has arrived. It’s the 50th Anniversary Collection – Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, a set with a title that might sound a little grandiose but really isn’t when you consider that it includes 12 CDs, containing over 200 songs that represent the best from that classic TV show. But wait — that’s not all. My advance set for review didn’t include the extras, but yours would also have a certificate of authenticity and a special collector’s box. The box looks pretty nice in the picture and is sort of expected with a boxed set, but. . .a certificate?
Turns out that it guarantees that each CD in the set is – er – authentic, so if that sort of thing makes you happy then you’ve got it, but I doubt that you’ll have a reason to pull it out and flash it at anyone. (Unless you just enjoy flashing things, and that’s a subject probably best left alone.) In any case, the music – as always – is what’s important, and this set, which is being linked with a TV special being shown nationally, certainly qualifies as one of the most comprehensive and complete ever assembled. There are six double CDs and each twin set has a title which indicates the content, although with varying degrees of success.
The first twin set , I Can’t Help Myself, is also the title of one of its songs, AKA “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” by the Four Tops. This set seems to consist of songs that lean toward love and its many tribulations, and include Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” and “My Girl,” by the Temptations, among others. (Total of 30 tracks.)
Rock Around the Clock is lots of old rock and/or dance music, an assortment that includes not only Bill Haley’s classic, but also the likes of Chuck Berry with “Sweet Little Sixteen,” Danny and the Juniors with “At the Hop,” Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time,” and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.” (Total of 32 tracks.)
Dance, Dance, Dance, seems to me to lean more toward classic rockabilly such as “Wake Up, Little Susie” by The Everly Brothers, or pop-flavored songs such as Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe,” Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” or “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees. But of course, there’s also the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” dance music for the ages. (Total of 36 tracks.)
Good Vibrations contains, not surprisingly, the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” but also a variety of feel-good songs that range all the way from Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” to Little Eva’s “The Loco-Motion,” and from Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” to Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” (Total of 34 tracks.)
Bandstand Boogie is a little tough to define based on the choices, which include José Feliciano doing “Light My Fire,” but Elvis crooning ” Are You Lonesome Tonight.” Or Donovan with “Mellow Yellow,” contrasting with the Box Tops doing “The Letter,” and Santana’s outstanding “Black Magic Woman.” (Total of 35 tracks.)
Best of the Spotlight Dances is the last twin set, and it reinforces once again that American Bandstand was always about dancing. Practically everything ever performed on the show was danced to, either fast or slow. Examples of the latter include the Temptations with “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me),” Dion and the Belmonts on “Where or When,” and Patsy Cline’s immortal “Crazy.” (Total of 34 tracks.)
The few tunes I’ve mentioned don’t begin to address the quantity and quality of music here. You won’t find a more complete set of oldies than 50th Anniversary Collection – Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, and if the music of the past few decades is of interest to you, I’d urge you to look more closely at the full listing.