In this day and age of Greatest Hits and Best Ofs, it's great to see this two album two-fer released in 2000 on the West Side label out of the UK which includes the Lesley Gore albums My Town, My Guy & Me (her 6th album released in 1965) and Lesley Gore Sings All About Love (her 7th album released in 1966). It's a fine compliment to the other two-fer also released in 2000 on the Edsel label which includes her first two albums I'll Cry If I Want To and Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts (both released in 1963).
By the time of her 6th album in 1965 (if you include The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore, also released just prior in the summer of 1965) the times were changing for Lesley Gore. Lesley was no longer at the top of her game hits-wise mainly due to her busy schedule of school which made it difficult to tour in support of her singles and album releases (this didn't stop her from appearing in the The T.A.M.I. Show, the classic movie which featured everyone from The Rolling Stones to Marvin Gaye and James Brown). This busy schedule also did not stop her from recording an incredible album released in September of that year called My Town, My Guy & Me.
Earlier in that year, Lesley had released a couple of singles including All of My Life, which ended up on the The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore album released in July (and whose b-side called I Cannot Hope for Anyone was a Gore re-write of the Françoise Hardy tune Je N'Attends Plus Personne which did not show up on any album). She also released Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows which was also included on The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore album and had been featured in the movie Ski Party (also along with James Brown).
All along from her very first hit onwards, Lesley had worked with Quincy Jones at Mercury Records, but the title track to My Town, My Guy & Me would be the last Quincy Jones' Gore production in the 60s (until their 70s reunion album Love Me By Name). My Town, My Guy & Me is a great upbeat number, inspired by the 1964 Grammy-winning Petula Clark tune, Downtown. In fact, Lesley is given co-writing credit on this tune, although she's claimed anything she added was quite minimal. Lesley had in fact already written such Gore classics as I'm Coolin', No Foolin' and Leave Me Alone early on in her career, and she would also write a handful of other great tunes for the two albums included on this disc.
Lesley tries her hand at a song The Shangri-Las also recorded called What's A Girl Supposed To Do and comes out with a true winning combination without even mimicking The Shangs style at all.
What Am I Gonna Do With You (Hey Baby) had been recorded also by a little known girl group called The Inspirations, but it's Lesley's version that is the definitive version. There's also an alternate double tracked vocal version that can only be found on the mono versions of the My Town, My Guy and Me album that has never been issued on cd (and is not included here) which is worth hearing by Gore fans.
You Didn't Look 'Round is another upbeat number with the feel of her teenage loves-crushed theme, reminiscent of Gore's own I Don't Want To Be a Loser when she sings: "My whole world came tumbling down that night, when I saw you holding her so tight."
I Don't Care is another anthemic, deeply melodic numbers from the pen of Madara & White, the guys who gave Lesley her feminist anthem You Don't Own Me. I Don't Care is a great brooding number and a cool follow-up to the You Don't Own Me sound.
No Matter What You Do is a blaring rocker, that really shows how Lesley could rock out when she wanted to (and it was co-written by Dick St John, one half of Dick & Dee Dee).
The only time Lesley strays is when she tries her hand on the sugary sweet and dated The Things We Did Last Summer (a song Shelley Fabares also covered on her album The Things We Did Last Summer from 1962 which was comprised of covers of contemporary hits).
My favorite Lesley Gore song is a song she wrote herself called A Girl in Love. A Girl in Love has a wicked, but mellow lounge groove, soaring strings that remind me of string melodies The Mamas and Papas would use in 1966, and one of the best Lesley Gore double tracked vocals ever. It's definitely apparent that Lesley really felt this song thanks to her having written it herself.
Lesley has some help from Jack Nitzsche in the song he co-wrote with Jackie De Shannon on the song Baby That's Me, a song he also recorded with girl group The Cake. Where The Cake version seems to drown in the Spectorian wall of sound (at least that might help explain how The Cake version was a flop commercially), Jack Nitzsche perfects that wall with girl group backing vocals, bells and a full dimensional sound that has an incredible soaring melody and lead vocal by Lesley.
Just Another Fool is another brooding mature ballad which Lesley captures perfectly in her double tracked vocal glory. Just Another Fool was also covered by British girl group The Chantelles (of London) which featured members of Dusty Springfield's first group The Lana Sisters, but it's Lesley's version which is the definitive version.
Let Me Dream is another fine 1960s concoction with a dreamy sound and a stop and start arrangement that is impeccable.
Before and After is the album closing tune written by Van McCoy that was also a hit for Chad & Jeremy, but I think this is the perfect Claus Ogerman arrangement with its sweetly loungey musical backing and stellar Lesley vocal.
Things had change by the time of the Lesley Gore Sings All About Love album. No longer under Quincy Jones' wing, Lesley began working with Shelby Singleton (best known as a country producer; he also discovered Jeannie C. Riley of Harper Valley P.T.A. fame). She also enjoyed the arrangements of Alan Lorber (who did work with Gene Pitney, and later created the Bosstown Sound) on this record. Interestingly, Singleton brought up some Nashville musicians to play with the string players in New York. The end result: this album is the first in a series of different sounding albums for Lesley.
Lesley Gore Sings All About Love combines together some choice covers (Young Love, Too Young, To Know Him Is to Love Him, and Will You Love Me Tomorrow) with a couple of Gore originals (I Won't Love You Anymore (Sorry) and We Know We're in Love) and a handful of other tunes fitting to Lesley's style. As a whole the album doesn't work quite as well as My Town, My Guy & Me, but it still has some great moments.
Starting with the covers, the biggest hit from this album was Lesley's rendition of Sonny James' hit from 1956-1957 called Young Love. It's nice to hear this song with a bigger sound, and interesting to hear Lesley try her hand at a country pop tune (something which many singers were doing at the time, like for instance Sandy Posey). Interestingly, the b-side to Young Love was another song Lesley wrote herself (along with Carole Bayer-Sager) called I Just Don't Know if I Can (not included here).
Too Young is a breezy number which was also recorded in 1965 by Skeeter Davis on Skeeter Sings Standards and by Marvin Gaye on A Tribute to the Great Nat King Cole. Fans of those two artists or early Scott Walker will enjoy Lesley's sweet rendition.
It's too bad Lesley didn't get to work with Phil Spector, but hearing her cover his To Know Him Is to Love Him is the next best thing. This is one of the songs where Alan Lorber's string arrangement really standout, and while it may irk some, it really does add to this gorgeous arrangement.
Finally, Lesley covers the girl group classic Will You Love Me Tomorrow which has a similar feel to To Know Him Is to Love Him with its soaring strings and sweet Lesley vocal.
A couple of the singles from Lesley Gore Sings All About Love were written by Lesley and her then 15 year old brother, Michael. I Won't Love You Anymore (Sorry) is a tense, dramatic number in the I'm Sorry vein that is so popular for songwriters and singers alike. They must've felt pretty highly of Lesley's talent to release it as a single but alas it was not one of her hits.
She and Michael also wrote the fab We Know We're in Love, a swinging bouncy number which was also featured as a key plot device in the final episode of The Donna Reed Show - which also had Lesley singing the song. Sadly neither of these singles were big hits for Lesley, mainly because she was too busy to go around the country and promote them.
Other highlights include Lesley's version of Start the Party Again, a fine tune to followup on Lesley's It's My Party theme. This song was written by Arthur Resnick and Kenny Young - the guys who wrote Under The Boardwalk. Resnick and Young also had Bernadette Peters record it in a Lesley sound-a-like performance (Resnick and Young produced some of Bernadette's early singles). Artie's wife Kris went on to work with Joey Levine in the bubblegum group The Third Rail.
I Can Tell was a tune that was also recorded by the great girl group Reparata and the Delrons, but here we get to hear Lesley battling it out with her own conscience. It's interesting to compare this version to an unreleased version of it found on the Bear Family boxset (and not included here). This is one of those songs that knock you out with the fact that it's so good and yet was not a hit at all.
The songwriting team of Motola & Page had written a Joel Scott single for Phil Spector's Philles label, Eddie Cochran's Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie, My Boyfriend by Becky and the Lollipops (which was also covered by Ria Bartok in French as N'y Touche Pas) and Borealis on The Marketts' Out Of Limits album. Here we get to hear Lesley sing a tune written by Motola & Page called That's What I'll Do which has a soulful flare to it.
Barry Mason co-wrote Delilah for Tom Jones and Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) for Edison Lighthouse, but here we get to hear Lesley sing his song Only Last Night, a more mature song for her. It's the day after the party in this tune, and Lesley is wondering about the night before in this tune with a soaring chorus and backbeat.
With Any Other Girl sounds like it was written just for Lesley and is another fine example of her intense brand of teen crushdom. It has a similar theme to You Didn't Look 'Round, but with a soaring breezy intense sound.
I Just Can't Get Enough of You is an early Ashford/Simpson song which actually features Valerie Simpson on backup vocals. It's an upbeat Motown styled number with some tasty fuzz guitar.
One wonders why both of her 1964 albums Boys, Boys, Boys and Girl Talk were somehow missed during this reissue campaign (not to mention her later albums). Seeing as how the only other way to get these albums is to splurge on the all encompassing 5 cd It's My Party box set on Bear Family (out of Germany), it's great that some labels saw to it that at least some of her albums were reissued separately at a more modest price (although these cds too have now become somewhat scarce).