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Music Review: Frankie Avalon – Muscle Beach Party: The United Artists Sessions

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The music scene during the pre-Beatles era was inhabited by what were known as teen idols. Elvis was the king and Ricky Nelson was the crown prince. Singers such as Bobby Rydell, Fabian, Pat Boone, Tab Hunter, and of course Frankie Avalon, sold tens of millions of records and produced dozens of hits.

Frankie Avalon still tours consistently down to the present day. Many people, however, associate him with the series of Beach Party movies he made with Annette Funicello during the mid-1960s. This led him to sign a recording contract with the United Artists label for which he never had a hit.

Real Gone Music has now released his United Artists Label output under the title Muscle Beach Party: The United Artists Sessions. It brings back to life the material from a period of his career that has been unavailable for decades.

The centerpiece of the compilation is his album, Muscle Beach Party And Other Movie Songs. Annette had cashed in on the Beach Party Music with a hit album titled Annette’s Beach Party. Frankie now recorded his versions of songs from the films. While the album was filled with orchestration, his went in a more stripped-down direction. His take on such beach classics as “Muscle Beach Party,” “Beach Party,” “Runnin’ Wild,” and “Surfer’s Holiday” were interpreted for the small lounge. The other movie songs fare less well as he tries to interpret such classics as “More,” “Days Of Wine And Roses,” “Moon River,” and “Again” and just can’t make them unique.

His series of stand-alone singles are also included. “Don’t Make Fun Of Me” was a nice mid-tempo ballad. “Here To Stay” was a nice slow track that was representative of the era. “New-Fangled Jingle-Jangle Swimming Suit From Paris” is antiquated by today’s standards, but it was a witty dig at Walt Disney not wanting Annette to wear a revealing bathing suit in any of the films.

The last four tracks are taken from the Bob Hope fiim, I’ll Take Sweden, in which he starred opposite Tuesday Weld. “There’ll Be Rainbows Again” is a romantic ballad while “The Bells Keep Ringing” and “Would Ya Like My Last Name” were both up-tempo pop that was similar to his early hits.

His short time with the United Artists label was Frankie Avalon’s last gasp as a teen idol. He would go on to produce more mature pop music that, while not as commercially successful, was polished and more in tune with the times. Muscle Beach Party: The United Artists Sessions is an album for fans of Avalon or the era. The music did not influence the direction of American music, but it was fun and made you smile and sometimes that is enough.

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