PICK SIX: HARMONIZE!



The Notations: It Only Hurts For a Little While
From S/T (Gemigo, 1975)

The Temprees: Explain It To Her Mama
From Lovemen (We Produce, 1972). Also on Best Of.

The Persuaders: Trying Girls Out
From S/T (ATCO, 1973)

The Modulations: Those Were the Best Days of My Life
From It’s Rough Out Here (Buddah, 1975)

The Moments: Love on a 2-Way Street
From Not On the Outside, But on the Inside, Strong! (Stang, 197?)

The Montclairs: Dreaming Out of Season
From Dreaming Out of Season (Paula, 1972). Also on Make Up For Lost Time.

Bonus: The Flamingos: Why Can’t Susie Go to School With Lucy
From Today (Ronze, 197?)

I’m working backwards here since this was my original, introductory post to the Pick Six series. Note: I’m fond of starting new series that promptly go nowhere so just be warned. The idea behind the series was based around the relative little time I have these days to get more posts up and throwing up six at a time seemed like one way to clear the slate faster. However, it also gave me an opportunity to think of my own music library more thematically, hence each Pick Six post will have some kind of thread that ties all them together. Last time, it was Louie Ramirez and for this post, I was going through a stack of soul records and realized that, of late, I’ve been acquiring a grip of LPs by R&B groups built around harmonized singing, ala the Chi-Lites or Stylistics.

Most of these groups were influenced by multi-member gospel singing and not surprisingly, many in these groups could trace their musical histories back to gospel singing prior to their R&B excursions. Especially in a city like Chicago, it’s not hard to guess that a group like the Notations probably took their inspiration from both gospel as well as The Impressions, whose three-part harmonies were incredibly influential. The Notations were first signed with Twinight but by the 1970s, had shifted over to Curtom (via the Gemigo subsidiary), Curtis Mayfield’s label. “It Only Hurts” is one of those sweet soul classics, especially because of that memorable string melody that opens the song. i like the dramatic flourishes throughout the song and the interplay in the quartet’s voices (Clifford Curry, LaSalle Matthews, Bobby Thomas, Jimmy Stoud) work well against one another.

The Temprees were a trio out of Memphis, TN, first signed to We Produce, a Stax subsidiary (same label Ernie HInes’s “Our Generation” came out on). The three, composed of Jasper Phillips, Harold Scott and Deljuan Calvin, were young – high schoolers – when they first met and there’s a charming swagger to them naming their first album Love Men when they probably weren’t that many years out of their peachfuzz yet. “Explain It To Her Mama” kicks off with a pounding little breakbeat and then shifts into a rich, mid-tempo ballad that showcases Phillip’s falsetto.

The Persuaders’ “Trying Girls Out” may be familiar to some of you as the source for the “Girls, Girls, Girls” remix off Jay-Z’s The Blueprint and it makes you appreciate how keen an ear Kayne had back in 2001. The original has a sly humor to it – this is no sentimental love song for certain – but even if it is a players’ anthem, the Persuaders sure do make it sound sweet. This is from their self-titled album, the follow-up to their hit Thin Line Between Love and Hate, featuring Douglas Scott, brothers Willie and James Holland and Charles Stoghill.

Like the Persuaders, the Modulations were another four-member group, formed in Philadelphia and you can hear that classic “Philly sound” draped onto this nostalgia-suffused track. I’m guessing it’s Larry Duncan on falsetto here but surprisingly, it’s pretty damn hard to figure out who else was in the group (besides Glenn Lewis). For real: the album credits the musicians by name but not the singers…whoops.

The Moments are arguably the most famous ’70s vocal group out of New Jersey though they probably went through enough personnel changes to staff two or three groups. By the time they recorded “Love on a 2-Way Street” their membership could either have been the best known combo, with William Brown, Al Goodman and John Morgan, but it could also have been Mark Greene, Richie Horsley and Morgan). Regardless, the Moments were impressively consistent no matter what the line up and this was one of their classics from the last ’60s.

The Montclairs were a short-lived, four man group out of East St. Louis who never really broke it big despite having some serious vocal talent. Signed to Paula for their one and only album, the group was comprised of Phil Perry, Kevin Sanlin, David Frye, and Clifford Williams. “Dreaming Out of Season” was their biggest hit and it’s so good, it’s a shame the couldn’t find the footing to put out even more than they did.

The bonus cut comes from The Flamingos – you remember, of “I Only Have Eyes For You” fame – but this comes from an early ’70s album (hence the “Today” part of the title) where the doo-wop group is trying to stay current with, y’know, the kids. The song is obviously funk-influenced (and not sweet soul) but I thought it’d make a fun bonus cut to hear a classic soul harmony group trying on a different genre. Personally, I think the song does ok though for a social consciousness tune (the title is a clear reference to integration), it’s overly vague despite sounding pretty obvious.

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