Once upon a time (always a good way to start a tale) there was a music fan who needed a Coasters CD for his collection. He knew all the big hits, even had many of them in various compilations, but wanted a more thorough overview of their storied career. There were two choices - the first was a relatively inexpensive 16 song "Very Best Of" that covered the basics and came from a series known for decent pics, notes and information. The second choice was a 50 song two-disc set that garnered rave reviews when it first came out but was more than double the cost. It was a toss up for the notoriously thrifty collector. When a used copy of the 16 track set was found for a big price discount the choice became easier.
Thus "The Very Best Of The Coasters" moved in and filled the requisite needs at first, even tossing in a few lesser heard gems such as the hysterical "Shoppin' For Clothes" and the rousing "Run, Red, Run". The notes which featured an interview with the group's famed writer/producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were informative, and while it skimped somewhat on mentioning the contributions of the singers themselves, and by limiting itself to just 16 songs focused almost solely on the hits, it was deemed a decent purchase overall.
But as usually happens with such a consistantly good act as the Coasters he found himself craving even more. Those huge hits that we've all heard a thousand times on radio, in movies and on those cheap Hits Of The 50's compilations were somehow not as impressive stacked one on top of another without pause. Sure they were still excellent compositions, brilliantly sung and played, but they were almost TOO popular to stand out amongst other equally famous sides. On the other hand, those rarer cuts that WERE included seemed fresher, partly because they were not as familiar and partly because Leiber & Stoller were virtually incapable of cutting a bad record and so they began to hold more interest whenever the CD was played. Suddenly that 50 track two-disc set began looking more and more attractive for it would be sure to hold far more obscurities than the mere 16 track "Very Best Of" did. So our hero set out once again on his perilous journey in search of musical nirvana.
However due to those evil licensing folks who limit the time multi-label packages can be on the market (every story needs a villian) "50 Coastin' Classics" was out of circulation by this time. But our fearless hero persevered and finally found the elusive damsel in distress, slayed the dragon and bought a nice used copy (albeit at full original price) and was amply rewarded for his courage. On it he soon discovered he had been denying himself access to 34 terrific songs for far too long. Granted not every one of them was as great as "Yakety Yak" or "Charlie Brown" had been, but the joy of hearing how the Robins evolved into the Coasters over nine full tracks rather than just two as found on the "Very Best Of", including the addition of one of their best comic performances on "Framed" was worth the added price alone. And surely few casual Coasters fans have heard just how adaptable their unique style could be when applied to standards like "Brazil", "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart" and "Besame Mucho", which really stand out as evidence of their singing talent. And while most Coasters collections stop around 1961 this one continues to the dawn of the 70's and showed their skills hadn't dried up just because the hits did, as proven with the funky "Soul Pad" and the great original version of "D.W. Washburn".
As if that wasn't enough, inside this package was a thick booklet that used the same interview from the "Very Best Of" set but only here it wasn't chopped down to size, instead giving us 13 pages of recollections from the famed writing duo with extended comments on nearly every song. Plus it had a full sessionography including the much appriciated information of who sang what parts on each cut, something that was omitted entirely from the smaller hits disc. Besides all that it had lots of photos scattered throughout, an additional 9 page written introduction on the group by respected musicologist Robert Palmer and a colorful, neatly constructed folding cardboard box to store it in.
The moral of this story? Don't be a cheapskate when it comes to great music. Trust that the added expense will be worth it. Hearing the sly vocals on "What Is The Secret Of Your Success" or "The Shadow Knows", the straight-ahead rockin' on "Hey Sexy", "Wake Me, Shake Me" and "Keep On Rollin", or the hilarious reading of "Stewball" will more than bear this policy out. Besides, you'd hear plenty of the big hits they're famous for anyway without even making an effort to, so instead search out the songs that have been lost in the pages of time, many of which are the equals to their more reknowned work, and when added together show just how great these guys really were. Fifty diverse and intricately nuanced songs spread out over two discs make for a much more varied and enjoyable listening experience than you'd get by just sticking to the well-known.
So track "50 Coastin' Classics" down, stop wasting money on packages that give you less of a good thing - even if the price is cheaper - and trust your instincts. You'll live happily ever after if you do. The end.