Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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There's a Riot Goin' On: The Coasters on Atco
Rhino Handmade

Founded in L.A., this pack of jokers has endured far longer than more serious bands

The Coasters were the class clowns of '50s rock & roll. But they were also highly accomplished singers, and as masterminded by songwriter-producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, hits like "Searchin'," "Yakety Yak" and "Along Came Jones" were so tight, they crackled. This completist box is too much of a good thing--all of the disc-four rarities have superior original mixes. But not one of the 113 tracks will activate your remote--not even the pop standards they sang to prefab strings in 1960 or the R&B oldies they redefined after Leiber and Stoller withdrew--and "What About Us" and "Shoppin' for Clothes" shoulda been smashes. Devoid of doo-wop mawk or rockabilly menace, the Coasters had their own sound, based on Billy Guy's wet, ribald baritone, Carl Gardner's equally theatrical tenor and Stoller's "alley" piano. But they found their market niche as a laugh machine. And today their comedy also documents the black and teen upheavals of the '50s, translating them into impeccable musical entertainment.

Blender, Apr. 2008