From Real Gone Music comes a reissued Chubby Checker twofer containing the 1961 releases It’s Pony Time and Let’s Twist Again. The albums were the third and fourth of Checker’s career. This is mostly very dated dance music, popular in its time but more or less a novelty today. Most of the songs on It’s Pony Time are named after dances–including “The Watusi,” “The Shimmy,” “The Mashed Potatoes,” and more–and they all kind of sound basically similar. Let’s Twist Again branches out a bit more, with songs like “Peanut Butter” and “Fishin’” coming off like passable kiddie fare.
As listed on the back cover of the CD, the chart success of these two albums varied pretty wildly even given Checker’s popularity. It’s Pony Time only managed a dismal placing of number 110 on Billboard’s album chart, while Let’s Twist Again fared much better with a number 11 chart peak. Despite this disparity, both albums’ title tracks were big hits (“Pony Time” topped the charts, while “Let’s Twist Again” reached number eight). Another popular single was “Dance the Mess Around,” which was a solid top 40 hit, but apparently didn’t boost albums sales of It’s Pony Time.
James Ritz’s liner notes, originally written for (and included with) the 2010 Collector’s Choice release of this compilation, offer a solid amount of background information about the artist known for immortalizing the twist. It would have been even better if the booklet listed the names of the musicians who played on these albums. Still, Ritz’s well-researched essay is a great companion to the music.
If you’re a fan of the “dance craze” era of pre-British Invasion pop music, this reissue will be a welcome slice of nostalgia. As enthusiastically played as the songs are, I’m not really convinced this music holds up today. But for anyone throwing an early ‘60s-themed party, these Chubby Checker tunes will make an ideal soundtrack.