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Best of the Shangri-Las

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Album Review

Proof in the adage "you get what you pay for" is evident on this 17-song anthology from the U.K.-based Pegasus Budget Entertainment label. Borderline enthusiasts will inevitably find what they are seeking. However, because Pegasus' 2004 collection The Best of the Shangri-Las was issued primarily in foreign (read: outside North American) markets — some might consider the compendium's omissions its fatal flaw. One can't refer to the girl group pop music trend of the early 1960s and not mention the two sets of Queens, NY siblings who made up the Shangri-Las. Mary Weiss and Betty Weiss teamed up with their high school classmates (and twins) Marge Ganser and Mary Anne Ganser and actually began singing on demo records for producer Shadow Morton while still attending classes. It was through his Brill Building connections that the young ladies were signed to Red-Bird Records — owned and operated by none other than Jerry Leiber of Leiber and Stoller fame. Under Morton's direction, the vocalists would unleash half-a-dozen American Top 40 entries. The biggies "Remember (Walkin' in the Sand)," "Leader of the Pack," "Give Him a Great Big Kiss," "Right Now Not Later," "He Cried" and "Past, Present & Future" are accounted for. Yet, absent are the secondary hits "Give Us Your Blessing," "I Can Never Go Home Anymore" and "Long Live Our Love" — all of which reached the Top 40 singles survey. Even with room to spare, they have been passed over in favor of a handful of comparatively subpar deep album tracks, such as "What's a Girl to Do," or "Never Again," and the B-sides "What Is Love" — the flip to the "Leader of the Pack" single and "Heaven Only Knows," which backed the aforementioned M.I.A. "Give Us Your Blessing" 45. Those wishing for a more inclusive package should check out either the 1996 or 2002 edition of Myrmidons of Melodrama (1996) — which, for a few extra bucks, sounds infinitely better and is endowed with additional hits and rarities alike.

Biography

Formed: 1963 in New York, NY

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s

Along with the Shirelles and the Ronettes, the Shangri-Las were among the greatest girl groups; if judged solely on the basis of attitude, they were the greatest of them all. They combined an innocent adolescent charm with more than a hint of darkness, singing about dead bikers, teenage runaways, and doomed love affairs as well as ebullient high-school crushes. These could be delivered with either infectious, handclapping harmonies or melodramatic, almost operatic recitatives that were contrived...
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