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The Best of the Bobbettes

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Album Review

Although it gives the appearance of being a German import, The Best of the Bobbettes was manufactured at an American facility using astonishingly scratchy records as source material. Critic Greil Marcus placed this anthology on a Top Ten list in 2001 without mentioning that it is one of the poorest-quality "gray market" CDs you'll ever find that isn't somebody's homemade CD-R. Thankfully, there is a sonically improved collection available: The Ultimate Collection on Titanic Records. The Best of the Bobbettes has 32 songs including the group's big hit, the hot-for-teacher classic "Mr. Lee"; its violent pre-Columbine follow-up, "I Shot Mr. Lee"; and a few other minor chart items. Aside from the chart hits, the Bobbettes recorded pop standards such as "Teach Me Tonight" and "Oh My Pa-Pa," but their greatest efforts are teen-oriented rockers such as "Speedy," "Zoomy," and "Rock and Ree-Ah-Zole (The Teenage Talk)" that capture the Bobbettes' infectious energy and vocal gimmick — a distinctive hiccup. The booklet contains a letter from the girls' teacher Herbert Lee, the real-life Mr. Lee on whom the song is based, in which he seems mercifully unaware that the Bobbettes disliked him (and kill him off in "I Shot Mr. Lee"). The Best of the Bobbettes does not fully overlap with The Ultimate Collection, but the quality of the former is so spotty that the inclusion of one or two exclusive tracks hardly matters.


Formed: 1955 in New York, NY [Harlem]

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s

The Bobbettes were among the first successful girl groups of the rock era; in a field dominated by male artists, their 1957 hit "Mr. Lee" not only cracked the pop Top Ten, but also hit number one on the R&B charts. Originally dubbed the Harlem Queens, the group teamed sisters Emma and Jannie Pought with Laura Webb, Helen Gathers, and Reather Dixon; first meeting in 1955 while singing in the glee club at Harlem's P.S. 109, soon the girls were appearing at the Apollo Theater's legendary amateur nights,...
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