“Shangri-Las 65!” by The Shangri-Las - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1965Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s

TJR says

To all intents and purposes, “Leader Of The Pack”, the preceding Shangri-Las debut album from February ’65, was a 1964 production. “Shangri-Las 65”, first issued in September, therefore made the clear statement – this was the new sound of a group making progress. Their brand of teen melodrama was becoming more angst-laden and George Morton’s productions were in tandem, capturing the increasing moodiness of the songs perfectly. Included were all six sides of the latest 3 singles; “Out In The Streets” (March), “Give Us Your Blessings” (May) and “Right Now And Not Later” (August), all of which had carried on their momentum, albeit without the stunning sales heights of the mega-hits of the preceding year. Sophistication was the key to these performances – they were far too good to be number one hits.

The glorious “Right Now” opens up side 1 – it’s extremely well driven and is packed full of Motown goodness, with excellent vocals, a honking sax, swirling organs and a great bassline. If your hips don’t sway to this then, basically, you’re a dead person. It’s happening right now, later is too late is as positive as the album gets, message wise. “Never Again” follows in with a huge “wall of sound” – only two tracks in and, already, we’ve had legitimate and credible productions to rival Motown and Phil Spector. The high quality is maintained on “Give Us Your Blessing”, which is more of a trademark Shangri-Las number and packed full of drama; young teenagers in love threaten to runaway unless they can be married. It’s set to a thunderous backdrop, with chiming bells and church keys and production tricks rooted in the successes of “Remember” and “Leader”: “Well as they drove off they were crying, and nobody knows for sure that, that's why they didn't see the sign, that road detour. The next day they found them, Mary and Jimmy were dead, and as their folks knelt beside them in the rain they couldn't help but hear the last words that Mary had said, Give us your blessing, please don't make us run away, give us your blessing say you'll be there on our wedding day.” Ooft. It’s a death-rock classic of the highest order. What entertainment! The word-jazz oddity that is “Sophisticated Boom Boom” was written by George Morton himself; it’s a quirky little number that serves to break up the album well. Surely, every listener is hooked by this stage; you daren’t miss a moment as this LP continues to unravel. This trick of keeping us on our toes continues with the cool cover of The Ikettes “I’m Blue” – it’s Mary Ann who steps up to the mike for a rare change of lead vocalist. (As a side note was Marlena Shaw listening in for her “ging-gi-gi-gi-gi-ging-gisms”?) Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich’s doop-pop sensibilities are to the fore on “Heaven Only Knows” which closes side 1.

Drawing breath for a moment, it’s been a remarkable mix-tape so far – so many different stylizations and so much drama – and we’re only halfway. In all, Jeff & Ellie’s partnership was responsible for 5 of the 12. Side 2 opens with 3 of theirs. In a parallel universe, “Train From Kansas City” would be the latest single from Jeff Barry and George Morton, ace producers extraordinaire of 200 Motown hits 1964-1969. It’s got the lot; a great beat, killer melody lines, awesome girl harmonies, and tricks and licks galore. Chugga-chugga-choo-choo! The pain of growing apart from someone really close is reflected soulfully on “Out In The Streets”. It’s a massive performance from everyone; Mary’s reading is perfection and production wise, the solemn rhythm and Jeff Barry’s strings make for a thing of sheer beauty – this is the crowning glory of the LP. “The Dum Dum Ditty” recalls the insanely happy sugar-rush of the Crystals, as the girls sing in unison “he’s a rebel without a cause, he doesn’t do what everyone else does” Influences are laid bare on that and on the following “You Cheated, You Lied”, where the girls delve back in to the Rock n Roll ballad archives for a go at the Slades hit of 1958. They’re superb at the doo-wop style and it’s decided that such a ballad will be the best way to finish the set, although the genre gets a ’65 reinvention, devoid of actual doo-wop sparkle and imbued instead with something altogether darker and moodier. “The Boy” sums up what the Shangri-Las were all about – infatuation and teenage romance, the most serious, most important thing in the whole wide world. Jimmy and Mary 4ever x.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:38] 8.8.png The Shangri-Las - Right Now And Not Later (Robert Bateman, Kenneth Hollon, Robert Mosely) Pop
A2 [02:20] 7.5.png The Shangri-Las - Never Again (Robert Racano, Tony Michaels, Vinny Gorman) Pop
A3 [03:16] 9.1.png The Shangri-Las - Give Us Your Blessings (Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich) Pop
A4 [02:08] 6.9.png The Shangri-Las - Sophisticated Boom Boom (George Morton) Pop
A5 [03:37] 7.4.png The Shangri-Las - I’m Blue (Ike Turner) Blues / Rhythm n Blues
A6 [02:07] 6.4.png The Shangri-Las - Heaven Only Knows (Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich) Pop
B1 [03:23] 9.3.png The Shangri-Las - The Train From Kansas City (Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich) Pop
B2 [02:42] 9.8.png The Shangri-Las - Out In The Streets (Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich) Pop Ballad
B3 [03:04] 6.6.png The Shangri-Las - What’s A Girl Supposed To Do? (Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich) Pop
B4 [02:23] 8.4.png The Shangri-Las - The Dum Dum Ditty (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Larry Martire, Steve Venet) Pop
B5 [02:24] 8.2.png The Shangri-Las - You Cheated, You Lied (Don Burch, Levon Helm) Rock n Roll Ballad
B6 [02:49] 9.0.png The Shangri-Las - The Boy (George Morton) Rock n Roll Ballad
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