From the Vault...


The Tokens
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight"

© RCA Victor Records

Year of Release: 1994

track listing
  • The Lion Sleeps Tonight
  • A Tale Of Two Lovers
  • Little Hot Rod Suzie
  • B'wanna (Pretty Girl)
  • La Bamba
  • Water Prayer
  • Monkey Vendor
  • Sincerely
  • A Bird Flies
    Out Of Sight
  • Little Snow White Coupe

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    Previous Review: #1459
    Spyro Gyra--Breakout
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    The Tokens
    "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"

    The Tokens, best known for the classic oldie, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." This week's review is a 10-track compilation of songs recorded from 1961 to 1962. The Tokens first formed in 1955, as one of it's founding members was Neil Sedaka. He left in 1957, and by 1961, The Tokens' "classic" lineup was formed: Jay Siegel (lead singer), Mitch Margo, Phil Margo, Hank Medress, and Joe Venneri (guitar). "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" was co-written by Solomon Linda, who's version would be remade by The Tokens. And the rest they say is History, as this song would become one of the biggest hits in the early years of Rock & Roll. Despite it's huge popularity throughout the decades, The Tokens claimed a lawsuit for publishing credit rights. The case was dismissed, due to statute of limitations. To this day, The Tokens have stated that their original composition of the famous song created by them, even though they were not awarded this status by their record company, RCA Victor Records.

    Of the ten tracks on this compilation, the title, The Lion Sleeps Tonight is not related to the band's original title of the same name, released in 1961. This 10-track set is from their label, RCA Victor. With only 10 tracks, The Tokens were in existence in their prime, from 1961 to 1970, before members of the band started departing, in 1973. They never really accomplished other huge hits. And with the falsetto vocals of their biggest hit, you would think this song would have been covered by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. They would become famous a year later, in 1962, and accomplish many hit songs. Like The Four Seasons, The Tokens accomplished their biggest hit to reach #1, at the end of 1961. The song remained #1 for 4 weeks.

    As for this 10-track set, my only disappointment was not a thorough career look at their music. It would have great to hear their beginning years with Neil Sedaka. There has been court cases based on the Tokens name. One fact was that there was at least two albums recorded by "Neil Sedaka and the Tokens." Sedaka's own website had claimed there was material recorded by him, with the Tokens. Sedaka's material with The Tokens have never been officially released. As this 10-song compilation only covers the years 1961-1962, they did have other songs on the chart, up until 1970. A more chronological compilation would have been better.

    In observing the 10 tracks, there is more of a comparison to Dion & The Belmonts. The early 1950s Doo Woop is a definitely factor as well, just as Dion and his crew made famous during their years together. "A Tale Of Two Lovers," "Little Hot Rod Suzie," and "Sincerely" (an upbeat doo wop version of the McGuire Sisters hit) are all good songs comapred to Dion.

    With the falsetto of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," it would have been nice to hear more songs like this. This is only the case for "B'wanna (Pretty Girl)." Their version of Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba" is a very good version. As for the rest, they are just "ok" doo wop numbers: "Water Prayer," "Monkey Vendor," "A Bird Flies Out Of Sight (Felicidad)" and "Little Snow White Coupe."

    The Tokens' compilation of The Lion Sleeps Tonight is just a short set of The Tokens' work. 10 songs from 1961-1962 from what was really close to 10 years of their prime existence. After 1973, their lineup would change, as they would also release more albums, up to 1999. Original members have formed their own versions of The Tokens, for oldies' performances. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" song would become more famous in future decades. Robert John recorded his own version in 1972. The Disney movie The Lion King would have the song in its soundtrack (2000). The movie made $15 million for the song, so it's obvious how The Tokens would claim a lawsuit for publishing/credit rights.

    Good news for some of the members of The Tokens, they would work with other groups: The Chiffons, The Happenings, and Tony Orlando & Dawn.

    The Tokens' would be known famous for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," although it would be great to hear other songs/hits they recorded. Likewise, knowing that Neil Sedaka was involved. The compilation here is just short, and not enough, reflecting on their career.

    © All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA Victor Records and is used for reference purposes only.

    Previous Review: #1459
    Spyro Gyra--Breakout
    Next Review: #1461
    Dion--Inside Job/Only Jesus