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  • Various - Cameo Parkway 1957-1967 4CDBoxset (CD)

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    Cameo Parkway was the one major record label of the rock & roll era to not see its material released on CD. The reason behind this is unclear. Alan Klein, best known as the manager of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the late ’60s, has owned the label since 1968, turning it into ABKCO the following year. All throughout the big CD reissue boom of the late ’80s and early ’90s, Cameo Parkway sat in the vaults while other reissues flooded the marketplace. This meant that big, big hits by Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, the Orlons, Dee Dee Sharp, and the Dovells all remained unreleased, along with early recordings from Patti LaBelle and a bunch of Michigan garage rock, including Bob Seger’s first singles and anything by the Rationals and the original recordings of ? & the Mysterians, including their classic 96 Tears.” Years passed and Cameo Parkway stayed far away from CD, although collectors clamored for these sides, never forgetting that the label had never made it to digital disc. Just when it seemed like Cameo Parkway would never make it to CD, ABKCO suddenly and surprisingly released the four-disc, 115-song box set Cameo Parkway 1957-1967 in May of 2005. This was a full 15 years after the peak of CD reissues and a full 40 to 45 years since the label’s heyday — a long, long wait to have this music reach CD. While there’s an unquestionable sense of relief to finally have a Cameo Parkway set — better late than never and all — ABKCO’s box does seem as if it’s arriving too late, as if it would have been better off if it were released during the days that Specialty, Atlantic, Vee-Jay, Phil Spector, and the Brill Building all received comprehensive box sets in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Those labels and movements were captured in lavishly packaged sets — either record-sized 12×12 boxes or book-sized sets, both with CDs housed in separate jewel boxes and large books, filled with photos, discographical details, and extensive liner notes. As appropriate for a box set released in the waning days of the CD era, Cameo Parkway feels like a downsized set: four discs in cardboard sleeves crammed into a small CD-sized box. The cramped 43-page booklet has a good label history from Jeff Tamarkin as well as pretty good notes concerning the release and chart details for each single, but there’s a lack of photos and the musician credits are all presented in alphabetical order over the course of two pages, with no indication of who played on what. Since ABKCO has done good work before, particularly on their Spector box, it’s possible that the market constraints of 2005 have led to this underwhelming packaging — after all, big box sets just aren’t made that often anymore, leaving lavish box sets as the province of specialty online outlets like Hip-O Select.

    So, looking at Cameo Parkway, it’s hard not to wish that it was released in 1990, when it would have gotten better packaging, and listening to the set provokes a similar desire: this is music that should have been reissued years ago. If it had been released during the boom years of CD reissues, it would not have arrived with the same set of expectations as it does in 2005. Because of the long delay, a sense of anticipation arrives with the set. There’s an assumption that in addition to the big hits and classics that have never have seen release on CD, Cameo Parkway will deliver a cornucopia of lost treasures, revealing the label as having a legacy as vast, influential, and formidable as Specialty, Atlantic, and Vee-Jay. One listen to this four-disc set proves that not to be the case. Cameo Parkway was, first and foremost, a label of its time. It could even be said that it defined its time, namely the years after Elvis joined the Army and the years before the British Invasion. This was the time that rock & roll turned toward pop music and dance crazes, and Cameo Parkway provided the soundtrack, both out of design and good fortune.

    The Philadelphia-based label shared a hometown with<"

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