Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Shangri-Las

  • Golden Hits of the Shangri-Las [Mercury, 1984] A-
  • The Best of the Shangri-Las [Mercury, 1996] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Golden Hits of the Shangri-Las [Mercury, 1984]
Though their three top 10 hits--"Remember," "Leader of the Pack," and "I Can Never Go Home Anymore"--are usually classified as "melodrama," Greil Marcus's "teen morality plays" is closer to their dark, stylized romanticism. Down below is one great rock and roll song--"Give Him a Great Big Kiss"--and lotsa melodrama, most notably the lost Debussy rip "Past Present and Future." And way below that are two nonhits that attempt to cast them as the nice girls they never wanted to be--the nice girls who could never have made great music out of this stuff. A-

The Best of the Shangri-Las [Mercury, 1996]
Musically, they lived and died with their producers, notably George "Shadow" Morton, an amateur who on a whim and a dare pared Phil Spector's wall of sound down to bass-drums-guitar. "Remember" and "Leader of the Pack" were three-minute symphonies on the strength of their arrangements rather than their orchestrations--big slow notes and two sets of streetwise sisters throwing themselves into a melodramatic morbidity worthy of Werther. This dark romanticism was without precedent in rock and roll, and the Black Sabbath hordes who took it up later never realized girls got there first. If those girls were gooey inside, especially with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich feeding them lines, that just deepened the effect--in their final smash, Morton's "I Can Never Go Home Anymore," the passion they expend on a martyred "good mom" is as convincing as anything they ever worked up for a leather-jacketed beau ideal. Archetypes never to be duplicated, they left a dozen songs so monumental that the filler functions as landscaping. A-