86-track boxed set contains the cream of the Vee-Jay label's run, from 1953 to 1966, including hits by Jimmy Reed,Jerry Butler amp; The Impressions, John Lee Hooker, The Four Seasons,Little Richard, The Staple Singers, The Dells, Betty Everett, The Swan Silvertones, Dee Clark, The El Dorados, Gene Chandler, The Spaniels, and many others, as well as amazing obscurities by less-well-known artists. Vee-Jay Records was the first nationally successful African-American owned record company. At one point it was bigger than even such powerhouses as Motown Records and Chess Records. Though Vee-Jay is now best known as the first American label to release records by The Beatles, it is classic singles like The Spaniels' "Goodnite Sweetheart, Goodnite," John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom," Jimmy Reed's "Bright Lights, Big City," Betty Everett's "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)," Jerry Butler's "Make It Easy On Yourself," The Four Seasons' "Sherry," Gene Chandler's "Duke Of Earl," and Little Richard's "I Don't Know What You've Got But It's Got Me" that remain the label's enduring legacy. Contains 86 tracks spread across four CDs, along with a beautifully designed 40-page booklet packed with photos and featuring two essays: a historical overview and a detailed track-by-track commentary.
For a label that lasted only 13 years and closed in 1966, Vee-Jay Records left a large legacy, though one that is largely underrecognized. This four-disc retrospective provides a corrective, documenting the range and richness of the catalog from the Chicago rival to Chess Records. Many know Vee-Jay as the first American label to license the Beatles (not included here) and to introduce the Four Seasons ("Sherry" is). But the depth of this set lies in the signature classics by artists including bluesmen John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed, gospel greats the Staple Singers and Swan Silvertones, doo-wop groups such as the Spaniels and Sonny Til's Orioles, and soul singers Jerry Butler and Gene Chandler. The well-known artistry merely scratches the surface of the sets' delights, as those familiar with such hits as Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good" and Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" will finds revelation in the Vee-Jay originals (by Betty Everett and Gloria Jones, respectively). An auspicious launch to what promises to be an ambitious reissue program. --Don McLeese