Picks and Pans Review: Nipper's Greatest Hits

updated 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Various artists

In one recent Billboard listing of the country's Top 100 singles, only four of the records were released by RCA. It was not ever thus, however. This series of five compact discs, named after the trademarked RCA dog who liked to listen to his master's voice on the Victrola, includes dozens of pop tunes that will be instantly familiar to people who remember the hits of the '50s (two discs), '60s (two) and 70s (one, since it was in that era that RCA Records began losing its place of preeminence). Compact discs are an ideal medium for this sort of nostalgia trip, and the discs include a panoramic range of the pop music of their eras. The '50s offerings include Mario Lanza, the opera singer turned pop idol, doing his still-tingle-producing Be My Love, Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel, Eartha Kitt's super-insinuating C'est Si Bon, Eddie Fisher (as big a sensation as Elvis at the time) doing Oh, Mein Papa and Hank Locklin singing his own country classic Send Me the Pillow You Dream On. Less enduring but still holding on to their curiosity value are such tracks as Phil Harris' The Thing (spun off the original version of the horror film of that title), Perry Como's Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom), June Valli's Crying in the Chapel and Mickey and Sylvia's bizarre Love Is Strange. The '60s discs include some real atrocities, such as Lorne Greene's Western gunfighter narrative Ringo, Ray Peterson's awful teenage tear-jerker Tell Laura I Love Her, and Barry Sadler's jingoist jingle The Ballad of the Green Berets. There were also such estimable pop records, however, as Elvis' Suspicious Minds, Neil Sedaka's Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, Sam Cooke's Chain Gang, Gale Garnett's We'll Sing in the Sunshine, Harry Nilsson's Everybody's Talkin' and Eddy Arnold's Make the World Go Away. Though pickings were slimmer in the '70s—scraping the bottom of the barrel led to Troglodyte (Cave Man) by the Jimmy Castor Bunch and Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me) by Reunion—there was Como's It's Impossible, Jefferson Starship's Miracles and Bonnie Tyler's It's a Heartache. The enjoyable liner notes by Ron Furmanek, Steve Kolanjian and Patrick Snyder point out, for instance, that Chet Atkins played backup guitar on Elvis' Don't Be Cruel-Heartbreak Hotel sessions and that Evelyn "Champagne" King, whose disco hit Shame is on the 70s CD, started her career with a different nickname: "Bubbles." (RCA, compact disc and cassette only)

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