Various Artists 

One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost & Found (Rhino)

Phil Spector's legendary "Wall of Sound" is the inspiration for this massive, engrossing collection of early '60s girl groups. While Spector's best-known sides are absent, it's amazing to hear how creatively energizing his hits were during a brief period usually disparaged as a downtime in "rock's maturity."

Among the standard swooning sob stories -- birthed from '50s doo-wop and the Brill Building -- lurk tons of unexpected genre-benders and future famous names (Cher, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Page), with huge harmonies and kooky sound effects at every turn. There are rousing R&B, garage rock, and syrupy string-laden epics right next to spurned soul sisters and freaky novelties galore.

Thankfully, Rhino resisted the urge to pad this collection with ballads or the obvious hits, preferring obscure tune that defy the eyelash-batting innocence of the genre's stereotype -- like Shirley Matthews' snotty "Chico's Girl." (Most of these songs fell through history's cracks not simply because they were radio candy, as is often assumed, but because they were odd amalgams that didn't always fit into the chart formats of the day. For all their considerable influence on subsequent "serious" pop productions, they also had a big impact on punk rock.)

Nevertheless, One Kiss is primarily a fun romp, wrapped in a spectacular vintage-hatbox design with a 201(!)-page booklet. While the packaging is fetching, the sounds underneath display a wide range of inventive attitudes that has reverberated from Blondie to the B-52's, the Go-Gos to drag-queen DJs, and Neko Case to Britney, Beyoncé, and beyond.

More by Eric Davidson


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