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A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening: Ace Collects The Innocents’ “Reprise, Decca, Warner Bros. and A&M Recordings”

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The Innocents - Ace

Ace Records has recently given a classic vocal group its due with the release of The Innocents’ Classic Innocents: The Reprise, Decca, Warner Bros. and A&M Recordings…Plus More.  Drawing from the vaults of all of those labels, the new 28-track collection premieres 12 previously unissued tracks from the California doo-wop trio best-known for “Honest I Do,” “Gee Whiz,” and “A Thousand Stars,” the latter with Kathy Young.  The non-chronologically-sequenced new anthology is a belated follow-up to Ace’s 1992 The Complete Indigo Recordings, which compiled the group’s earliest material.

The Innocents formed in Sun Valley, California out of the remains of junior high school vocal group The Emeralds.  Darron Stankey had sung in The Emeralds with Frank Zworkin, Wayne Edwards and Larry Tamblyn (brother of actor Russ), his fellow members of car club The Innocents.   When The Emeralds drifted apart, Stankey joined with two of his other car club pals, Al Candelaria and Larry New, to form The Echoes.  Soon, Jim West was singing with the group, too, and they were working with Herb Alpert and Lou Adler at Keen Records.  The Echoes’ single “Time” b/w “Dee-Dee-Di-Oh” was released on the Andex label to little fanfare, and the group moved on sans Larry New.

The streamlined trio of lead vocalist West (first tenor), Stankey (second tenor) and Candelaria (baritone) soon crossed paths with “Hollywood Maverick” Gary Paxton and the one and only Kim Fowley.  Paxton and Fowley were riding high from their No. 1 hit “Alley-Oop,” credited to The Hollywood Argyles but actually sung by Paxton and a motley crew of friends.  Fowley took a liking to West, Stankey and Candelaria’s “Honest I Do,” which the trio had written.  Paxton and Fowley arranged for the master – with Stankey on guitar, Marshall Leib of The Teddy Bears on bass and Dean “Spider” Webb on drums – to be sold to the small Indigo Records.  The record paid off for the group now christened The Innocents after their car club.  It became a regional chart-topper in L.A. and a Top 30 hit on the Billboard 200 in 1960, and it opens Ace’s new anthology.

After the jump, we have full details on the new package plus order links and the complete track listing!

Soon, though, Indigo took over production duties from Paxton and Fowley, appointing Jim Lee to oversee The Innocents’ records.  Paxton and Fowley held onto the master to “Tick Tock,” arranging for its release on the Trans-World label.  Not to be outdone, Indigo rush-released “Gee Whiz,” which followed “Honest I Do” to the Top 30 in December 1960.  “Gee Whiz” isn’t included here; you can find it on the earlier Ace release.  But “Tick Tock” is presented in two versions – the original Trans-World single and a longer “underdub” version with The Innocents backed only by Leib on piano.  Indigo went on to pair The Innocents with teenaged pop star (and future Mrs. John Maus of the Walker Brothers) Kathy Young, and their “A Thousand Stars” went all the way to No. 3 Pop and No. 6 R&B, becoming the label’s biggest-ever hit.  “A Thousand Stars” isn’t here, but in addition to “Honest I Do,” the Indigo period is also represented by a couple of Jim West solo sides as Bobby James, and the original single version of “In the Beginning.”  An alternate had been inadvertently utilized on The Complete Indigo Recordings.

The Innocents’ final single on Indigo arrived in October 1961.  By mid-1962, the label had closed it doors, leaving The Innocents free to pursue other avenues.  The trio landed at Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records and recorded seven songs, three of which were released at the time on two singles.  (“Oh How I Miss My Baby” was the A-side of both singles.)  The three songs appear here along with the four previously unreleased cuts. Of the issued material, the organ-driven “You’re Never Satisfied” gave the boys a more boisterous sound.  Left in the vault were nearly a cappella versions of “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening” and Pomus and Shuman’s Drifters hit “(If You Cry) True Love, True Love,” a sweet reading of “Pledging My Love” and the teen drama of Barry Mann and Larry Kolber’s “Oh How I Miss My Baby.”  The latter is featured in both mono and (previously unreleased) stereo mixes.

The Innocents’ brief Reprise stint was followed by another short tenure, this time on Decca.  The production company Wil-War (for Shane Wilder and Herb Warne) engineered the Decca release of “Don’t Cry” b/w “Come On Lover,” the latter a rock-and-roll side.  Both 1963 sides are included on Classic Innocents.  Next was a tenure at Warner Bros. Records, announced in Billboard by Warner’s famed A&R Director Joe Smith.  Jim Lee, formerly of Indigo, had teamed with none other than Lee Hazlewood to sign The Innocents to the Burbank record label.  Lee and Hazlewood produced a handful of tracks for The Innocents, but only “Don’t Call Me Lonely Anymore” and a dreamy rendition of Rodgers and Hart’s “My Heart Stood Still” were released on 45.  Both mono sides are included on Classic Innocents, which also premieres the outtake “Many Things,” the stereo masters of both songs, and mono demos of “You’re the One” (originally the B-side of Chris Montez’s “Let’s Dance”) and another stab at “(If You Cry) True Love, True Love.”

With the lack of success for the Decca and Warner Bros. releases, Darron Stankey quit the group.  Jim West joined Jim Lee in a trio when Lee attempted to carve out a career in the spotlight rather than behind-the-scenes.  But The Innocents’ story still wasn’t over.  Candelaria and Stankey reconnected with Herb Alpert, and joined with another school chum, Ken Mowery, as The Sugar Beats to record on Alpert and Jerry Moss’ A&M label.  Marshall Leib produced Candelaria’s song “First Love” as the A-side, and Tommy LiPuma helmed a David Gates arrangement of the Candelaria/Mowery/Stankey flip “Begin – Give In.”  Both of these tracks have great appeal to fans of the A&M pop sound of that period.

The Innocents have returned in various permutations over the years.  West and Phil Phillips, his drummer in Jim Lee’s short-lived trio, joined Candelaria in The Innocents Band later in the sixties.  Candelaria and West tried recording as a duo near the end of the decade; their acoustic, folk-style demo “Hold On” makes its first-ever appearance here.  West and guitarist Eric Turner recorded an album for Atlantic in the 1980s as the band Fortress.  Shortly after, West and Jack Merrill of the band Help returned to the studio; their demo of “Time Ain’t Been Wastin’” also debuts here.  Beginning in the 1990s, the classic line-up reunited for various appearances.  Their reunion track “Angel with a Heartache,” written by Gary Paxton and issued in 2003, is the most recent song on Classic Innocents.

Darron Stankey died in 2005.  Al Candelaria currently resides in Florida, and Jim West keeps The Innocents’ name alive with their website.  Ace’s two-volume series preserves the memory of these underrated doo-woppers through various genres and styles over the years.  Classic Innocents boasts a 24-page full-color booklet with a lengthy appreciation from compiler Rob Finnis.  Duncan Cowell has remastered all tracks.  It’s available now, and can be ordered at the links below!

The Innocents, Classic Innocents: The Reprise, Decca, Warner Bros. and A&M Recordings…Plus More (Ace CDLUX 011, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Honest I Do (Indigo 105, 1960)
  2. Tick Tock (Extended underdub of Trans-World 7001, first released 2006)
  3. Come on Lover (Decca 31519, 1963)
  4. Don’t Call Me Lonely Anymore (Warner Bros. stereo master)
  5. My Heart Stood Still (Warner Bros. stereo master)
  6. In the Beginning (Indigo 116, 1961)
  7. Don’t Cry (Decca 31519, 1963)
  8. Oh, How I Miss My Baby (Reprise stereo master)
  9. A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening (Reprise stereo master)
  10. You’re Never Satisfied (Reprise 20125, 1962)
  11. Pledging My Love (Reprise stereo master)
  12. (If You Cry) True Love, True Love (Reprise stereo master)
  13. First Love – The Sugar Beats (A&M 795, 1964)
  14. Begin – Give In – The Sugar Beats (A&M 795, 1964)
  15. 5000 Years Ago – Bobby James a.k.a. Jim West (Indigo 145, 1962)
  16. Memories Linger – Bobby James a.k.a. Jim West (Indigo 145, 1962)
  17. Tick Tock (Trans-World 7001, 1960)
  18. Many Things (Warner Bros. stereo master)
  19. Be Mine (Reprise stereo master)
  20. Angel with a Heartache (BMS 79372, 2003)
  21. Time Ain’t Been Wastin’ (Demo) – Jim West
  22. Hang On (Demo) – Al & Jim
  23. Don’t Call Me Lonely Anymore (Warner Bros. 5450, 1964)
  24. My Heart Stood Still (Warner Bros. 5450, 1964)
  25. Be Mine (Reprise 20112, 1962)
  26. Oh, How I Miss My Baby (Reprise 20112/Reprise 20125, 1962)
  27. (If You Cry) True Love, True Love (Warner Bros. stereo master)
  28. You’re the One (Warner Bros. stereo master)

Tracks 4-5, 8-9, 11-12, 18-19, 21-22, 27-28 are previously unreleased

Written by Joe Marchese

November 4, 2013 at 14:32

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