Simply put, LaVern Baker, one of the greatest vocalists in Atlantic Records' history, could sing anything, as she proved again and again during a seven-year run of chart hits that began with 1955's "Tweedle Dee" and culminated in 1963's "See See Rider." Her material, supplied by many of the era's greatest songwriters (Leiber-Stoller, Pomus-Shuman, and many others), encouraged her to draw on her gospel and big band backgrounds in exploring the emotional subtext of serious ruminations on life such as "Saved" and the powerful "Soul on Fire." The latter was her first Atlantic single, and on it she used virtually every vocal technique at her command to bring out the slow-burning sensuality of the Ahmet Ertegun-penned gem of erotic longing. Thus was notice served, and, in the glorious years that followed, Baker cut a swath wide enough that her name and label-mate Ruth Brown's were spoken in the same reverent terms, sotto voce. The 20 tracks here remain as vital today as they were indispensable to the music's evolution in her own time. --David McGee
LaVern was one of the crucial R&B singers of the early rock era, and these are 20 key cuts: her R&B Top 10s Jim Dandy; I Cried a Tear; Play It Fair; Bop-Ting-A-Ling; Tweedle Dee; Still; That's All I Need; See See Rider; I Waited Too Long , and more!