Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Shirelles: The Very Best of the Shirelles [Rhino, 1994]
Shhh--quiet with your Chantels and Shangri-Las. Mmmm--later for Martha and the Marvelettes. Shirley Owens and her junior high pals were the archetypal girl group, the original and always the greatest. They had more than 16 perfect records in them, but although this omits "The Things I Want To Hear" and "It's Love That Really Counts" from Scepter's Greatest Hits, which is merely one of the greatest phonograph albums ever made available to the general public, it compensates with "Boys" and "Foolish Little Girl" and "I Met Him on Sunday" and "Don't Say Goodnight and Mean Goodbye." Then there are all the ones you know and a bunch you may not, topped by "A Thing of the Past," where Shirley's failure to hit a high note realizes the rock and roll essence John Lennon only thought he heard in "Angel Baby." Sweetened and seasoned by forgotten smoothie Luther Dixon, she was one of the music's great unspoiled singers, more expressive than all but a handful of the showoffs who followed in her brave footsteps--proud, tender, intensely vulnerable, her womanly sexuality tied to an emotional life richer than the guys she adores will ever be able to handle. A+