Honey & The Bees: How Sweet They Were

Honey & The Bees: Together Forever
From 7″ (Arctic, 1969). Also on Dynamite!.

Honey & The Bees: Come Get It
From 7″ (Josie, 1970). Also on Come Get It: The Complete Josie Recordings.

Thanks for everyone’s patience – as noted last post, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling the past month and it’s strange how even short two day trips are momentum-killers. I guess I’m not as flexible as I thought in terms of dealing with changes to my weekly routines. In fact, just to make this completely ironic – I’m literally writing this post on an airplane right now (god bless US Airways for having laptop power outlets in their coach seats). Hey, get in where you fit in, right?

I first came upon Honey & The Bees off of someone’s soul mix and was so struck by their sound, the first thing I did was procure their Dynamite! anthology. I haven’t done as much homework on the group as I’d like but here’s the basics:

H&TB were a female soul group out of Philadelphia, originally named the Yum Yums, and comprised of Nadine Felder White, Cassandra Ann Wooten, Jean Davis and Gwen Oliver. They changed their name to Honey & the Bees before signing with Arctic (the great soul imprint that was also home to the Soul Ambassadors). The group recorded around five sides with Arctic, including a few choice and expensive Northern soul pieces. (Dynamite! compiles all those singles, plus what I can only assume to be a few bonus tracks from the vault).

In 1970, Honey & The Bees went over to Josie (best known as the home of the Meters’ first three albums) and knocked out an LP for them plus another half dozen or so singles. I’m not entirely clear on this, but it seems that with both labels, the group had the backing of Gamble-Huff players including Thom Bell, Leon Huff, Ron Baker and others. As such, though the Supremes are an obvious point of comparison, Honey & The Bees had far better production that the vast majority of girl group aspirants from the same era.

The group was strong enough to end up touring with James Brown for a spell in the early 1970s (Fred Wesley would woo and eventually marry Gwen Oliver as a consequence) though their headstrong, take-no-b.s. attitude eventually came into conflict with Brown’s own strong-armed control over his players and he had Wesley remove the group off tour.

“Together Forever” is probably my favorite track from the group’s Arctic years (though the fiery “Baby, Do That Thing” is nothing to sneeze at either) – love the string arrangement, the group harmony that opens the song and the general lushness of it all.

“Come Get It” shares many of the same qualities and I especially dig that bass chord sequence that opens the song and powers the chorus. And as with all their songs, the vocals are phenomenal, especially for anyone who is into female soul as much as I am.