There’s a reason why I sometimes buy an LP, even if I already have those songs in my collection. On rare occasion, I get an alternate version of a song I really like. The best example of this is a set of compilation LPs on the virtually unknown Impact Music Promotions label out of Fenton, MO., that produced The All American Pop Collection LPs. There are five volumes in the series.
These aren’t just alternate versions, they’re remakes of famous songs by the original band, or sometimes, just the original singer. I’m fairly convinced that Impact usually used a house band of some sort to replicate the song as best they could after convincing Dee Clark (Raindrops) or Lou Christie (Lightnin’ Strikes) among many others, to sing their hit again. These LPs came out in the 1980s.
So I’m listening to volume 4 (BC288) of this series. The aforementioned Clark and Christie are here, as are Chubby Checker (The Twist), The Chiffons (One Fine Day) and then…then it’s the Chantays, replaying one of the 60s most iconic surf instrumentals, Pipeline. I’ve always loved this tune, mostly because friend & fellow guitarist Jim Lum taught it to me, so we could play it during our junior high school’s sock hop around 1969.
The original version is dark and moody, which lends mightily to the mystery that is Pipeline. The lead guitar is somewhat buried in the mix and lacks sizzle in the treble area, which also contributes to the feeling that if you’re not careful, the wave you’re riding on is gonna git ya.
On the remake, the instruments are all out front, the lead guitar is not buried and the tempo is faster, giving the impression that the band is really in a hurry to finish the tune. It lacks the veil of secrecy that the original swims in, but on the other hand, it’s a pretty cool alternate version of a classic. This version was a bit of a revelation to me, to hear it as if it was recorded with better equipment, and mixed differently, too. It sounds more modern without being untrue to the original. A young listener might actually prefer this version.
OK, the rest of this LP isn’t so good, and the same can be said for most of the tunes in the collection. They aren’t as well done as the original. They sound cheaper, as if the studio wasn’t such a great recording space or the mics weren’t up to snuff, but mostly, I suspect that Impact Music was just trying to make a quick buck. But BJ Thomas’ Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, from volume 3 (BC287), is a nice alternate and sounds awfully close to the original, including the string section and backing vocals. I’d swear it was recorded the day after the original, in a different studio. Dee Clark’s Raindrops (volume 4), which charted at #2 nationally on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961, isn’t quite as sweet sounding as the original. It has that cheaper sound I described earlier. Clark’s wonderful voice is here, and although he doesn’t sing it with quite the verve of the original, it’s generally well done. Then there’s The Letter, by the Box Tops (volume 3). This one has some of the rasp of the original and sounds pretty good. I’d bet that some wouldn’t notice the difference between this and the original.
If you like alternate versions, try these LPs. Ya get what you pay for, but hey, they’re a dollar each! If you know something about Impact Music Promotions, get ahold of me. Until then, check out 55 seconds of compares between the original LP versions and then the All American Pop version of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head and Pipeline!