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Very Best of the Tokens

The Tokens

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Album Review

The title of this compilation is at least partially misleading. To virtually everyone's mind, anything labeled as containing "the very best of the Tokens" would have to include their early-'60s number one hit "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and their 1961 Top 20 single "Tonight I Fell in Love." This CD doesn't have those recordings, and nor for that matter does it have their 1967 Top 40 hit "Portrait of My Love." It focuses almost solely on tracks from 1964-1967, when most of their efforts came out on their own B.T. Puppy label. "Portrait of My Love" doesn't make the cut as it came out on Warner Bros., and while there are actually versions of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and "Tonight I Fell in Love" added as bonus tracks, these are taken from a 1993 album rather than the original recordings. All of those qualifications out of the way, this is a fair overview of their 1964-1967 B.T. Puppy releases, though it's pretty erratic. The one substantial hit to come from that stint, "I Hear Trumpets Blow," is superb clean-cut harmony pop/rock, but little else hear comes close. Some of the tracks are mediocre late-period doo wop, and others are innocuous, unmemorable tunes more in line with the updated production values of the mid-'60s. Yet others are downright embarrassing, like the 1967 quasi-psychedelic single "Green Plant," with trendy backwards effects, heavy echo, and lyrics musing on, yes, why a green plant grows. Not much less embarrassing is the Beach Boys-style "Greatest Moments in a Girl's Life," with its horribly dated timeline of the great moments a girl can look forward to in life, which of course are all related to romance, marriage, and settling down. In better news, this has the original version of the Gerry Goffin-Carole King composition "He's in Town," which the Rockin' Berries covered for a huge hit in Britain (though the Rockin' Berries did it better). For that matter, it has a couple of other close harmony songs the Rockin' Berries covered for smaller 1965 U.K. hits, those being "You're My Girl" (also penned by Goffin-King) and "The Water Is Over My Head" (co-written by a young Al Kooper). Four 1960s commercials featuring the Tokens' vocals are also included, capping this intermittently pleasing retrospective of the mid-'60s work by this versatile but inconsistent group. Incidentally, this has a track the group issued under the pseudonym of the Four Winds, as well as one by the United States Double Quartet, who were the Tokens recording with the Kirby Stone Four.

Biography

Formed: 1960 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '90s, '00s

This Brooklyn doo wop group was originally known as the Linc-Tones when it formed in 1955 at Lincoln High School. Hank Medress, Neil Sedaka, Eddie Rabkin, and Cynthia Zolitin didn't have much impact in their early days recording for Melba. They later disbanded, but Medress re-formed the group in 1960 as the Tokens. Brothers Phil and Mitch Margo and Jay Siegel were now the members. They recorded for Warwick in 1960, then had their one glorious hit in 1962, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." It was based on...
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Very Best of the Tokens, The Tokens
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