Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Platters

  • Encore of Golden Hits [Mercury, 1960]  
  • Enchanted: The Best of the Platters [Rhino, 1998] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Encore of Golden Hits [Mercury, 1960]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]  

Enchanted: The Best of the Platters [Rhino, 1998]
It's arguable that the most successful vocal group of the '50s by far--20 top 40 pop hits between 1955 and 1961--weren't doowop at all. They never sang on street corners, that's for sure. And although they started at King, their hits were on a major label, Mercury, overseen by a songwriter named Buck Ram who insisted Mercury market them on its pop rather than "race" imprint. All but one featured Tony Williams, a funny-looking little dude with a precise, melodramatictenor. Ram's piano triplets on their breakout "Only You" inspired a Stan Freberg parody, and his "When I feel your charm/It's like a fourth alarm" was one of the worst couplets of the decade. But the Platters' half-heartsong, half-heartbreak oeuvre proved romance needn't be adolescent or evanescent, and although Williams is dismissed as Jackie Wilson writ small, I prefer him just because he doesn't have what it takes to go all operatic on his timeless standards and period originals. This hitches up three collectors' items from the group's post-Williams and -Ram incarnation where Bing Crosby, Tommy Dorsey, and Ink Spots covers should be. But "Smoke Gets in You Eyes" remains, as it must. Zora Taylor's ingenue lead on the early-'57 "He's Mine" is girl-group before the Chantels. And where do you think Chrissie Hynde got her band name? Some Jackson Browne album? Or "The Great Pretender," which she thrilled to as a horny youth? A