Bobby Vee with Strings and Things

by: Bobby Vee

As with most rock & roll albums of the period, With Strings and Things is a mixed bag stylistically. Bobby Vee was a serious rock & roller, as exhibited on the exceptional rendition of Buddy Holly's "Love's Made a Fool of You" featured here, and the bluesy version of "Susie-Q." But as with most white rock & rollers at the turn of the '50s into the '60s, he was also expected to shoot for a more mature sound, and that's mostly where the strings and things enter into this recording, on a pumped-up, beat-driven rendition of "Baby Face" and pure teen pop versions of "Light Infatuation" and "Tears on My Pillow." They're not bad for what they are, and even that's not an insult -- cuts like that (especially the last one) you were supposed to dance to up close. And pieces like "How Many Tears" (by Carole King and Gerry Goffin) and "That's All" were the teen equivalent of adult pop-vocal music, stuff that the parents of teenagers might tolerate and that older teens would presumably buy the album for. And then, in the middle of those exercises in musical maturity is a rendition of Paul Anka's "Diana" done in the style of Holly's "Peggy Sue" that completely transforms the pop song into a rockabilly number. And next to it in the lineup is the high-haunt-count Vee original "Laurie," strings sharing the spotlight with a nicely cranked-up electric guitar. And there's a pretty good rocking version of Anka's "Each Night" after that. Their presence is enough to make one forgive the album finisher, the cutesy string-laden pop piece "Bashful Bob." The overall album is decidedly uneven in approach and results, but what does work here as rock & roll and decent teen pop is enough to make it worth hearing and perhaps even worth buying. ~ Bruce Eder

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