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Hailing from Winston-Salem, NC, The "5" Royales were a VERY important group in the evolution of soul music- their recorded output in the 1950's combined their gospel roots into secular R&B, much in the same way that Ray Charles (more famously) did as well. James Brown acknowledged his debt to the influence of The "5" Royales, going so far as to say he modelled his own Famous Flames on the group, and also recording their song "Think" several times.
The group released a few gospel records in the early 50's as The Royal Sons, but by 1952 they began recording secular music and changed their name to The "5" Royales and continued with more or less the same lineup until 1965. This smouldering hot R&B side was released twice- first on VJ Records in 1961, then again on the Home Of The Blues label in 1962 (the same recording was used for both).
Christmas arrived early this year, in that I found a copy of this record (that I've been chasing for many years) back last July.
Issued both in 1976 (to the fan club in limited numbers) and again in 1986 (this copy), this single hardly ever turns up for sale because both pressings were so limited, and most people tend to hang onto them. I have no idea where the '86 release was even SOLD, as I was both a Monkees fan and reading Goldmine magazine as a youngster during this era and I never remember seeing it for sale, and certainly have never seen it in any record stores. Perhaps producer Chip Douglas repressed it for the fan club only, I'm simply not sure. I've had both sides of this 45 on a lo-fi bootleg LP for over 20 years, but nothing beats having this copy with the uber-cool picture sleeve showing the fellas in the studio, reunited.
Chip Douglas and (Turtle) Howard Kaylan wrote the song back in 1968, and it was issued as a single by a group calling themselves The Christmas Spirit, which was made up of several Turtles and Linda Ronstadt. While the song was revisited for The Monkees version, it was completely re-arranged in a far superior way for their track, which is pure magic.
The group was unable to use the name Monkees due to legal restrictions, so the record was cleverly released as We Three Monkees. Michael Nesmith chose not to participate, but the rumor mill claims that it's none other than Nez playing pedal steel guitar on both sides. Micky and Davy take turns on the lead vocal, which is heartfelt and lovely, and the song itself is a wonderful thing. What's in the grooves makes it obvious that everyone involved was having a ball when they made the record. Davy takes the lead for a very moving, country flavored version of "White Christmas" on the flip side, which shows how this man could croon with the best of them and how missed he is.
The words written on the back of the picture sleeve, "An expression of friendship and togetherness to make the holidays a little brighter for all of us" couldn't be more spot on.
Whatever it is that you celebrate, I wish you peace, love, and happiness today, tomorrow and everyday.
One of the prettiest, yet little known soul Christmas singles.
I'm not sure if this Betty Lloyd is the same singer who was a member of the east coast girl group The Percells; Thomas Records was a Chicago label, and this track certainly has an indelible Chicago stamp on it.
The lyrics brilliantly capture the feeling of being alone at Christmas, but without self pity. Oozing with quality, this song should be a holiday standard.
While I don't generally pick favorites, as each year passes this record
has gotten deeper and deeper into my soul, and I could probably say that
it's my favorite rock n roll Christmas single.
One area that wasn't explored very deeply by US garage bands was the
Christmas record; however, Chicago's Saturday's Children were way too
sophisticated to be called a garage band.
Here, the band (deeply
influenced by the Beatles) melds "Deck The Halls" with Dave Brubeck's
jazz standard "Take Five' and turns it into a jazzy, quasi-psychedelic
number that I almost guarantee will bring on some holiday cheer. This
group had an incredible knack for harmonies, and tackle the tricky 5/4
time signature with ease making for the most hypnotic Christmas record
I've ever heard. The other side ("Christmas Sounds") is an exceptional
showcasing their excellent group harmonies and songwriting skill.
I also put together a holiday 'mixtape' this year for Aquarium Drunkard- check it out here!
Chicago vocalist Johnny Moore had a powerful, appealing voice and released several great records. For whatever reason, his records charted locally in Chi-town but never made a mark in any other markets. Several of (producer) Jack Daniels' other records were picked up by the then massive Mercury Records family for national distribution, and it's a real head scratcher why they wouldn't have picked up this one.
This excellent track may bear a striking resemblance to The Temptations "(I Know) I'm Losing You", but I certainly don't mind. When a groove hits this hard, it just doesn't matter.
JOHNNY MOORE - CALL IT WHAT YOU WANNA (I CALL IT LOVE)
Aretha's youngest sister had a chance to WAIL on this record, and in my opinion it's the strongest of all of her solo records (thanks in a big part to the excellent song - written by the great Van McCoy - which is so strong it should have been a hit).
Carolyn's greatest successes were as a songwriter for several Aretha tracks, and she also contributed some superb backing vocals to Aretha records, occasionally with older sister Erma in tow.
Sadly, Carolyn died way too young; she was only 43 when she passed away from breast cancer.
Phew... the close harmonies on this record drive ME mad, in the best possible way!
The 3 Degrees formed in Philadelphia in 1963 and went through a few
lineup changes before settling into their hit making mid '70's soul-disco
sound. Their early records for Swan feature some of my all-time favorite girl group vocals, and this another Richard Barrett production that takes the Motown blueprint and adds some Philadelphia seasoning to the pot; a recipe which eventually morphed into the very distinctive, string driven (but still rhythmic) Philly soul sound.
Gorgeous male/ female vocals and a lovely groove highlight this record that seems to be a one off from Bits And Pieces.
If you know any more info about this group, please write!
Yeah, I'm getting much deeper into early to mid '70's soul than I've ever been! With the exception of a few dozen ultra rare '60's 45's that remain on my want list, I think I've exhausted the wellspring of '60's soul sounds (although occasionally I hear something "new" that makes me go hmmmmm)
The Ascots were a group made up of four singers, three of whom were brothers (Archie, Eddie and Jerome Powell, plus Irving Haywood) from Washington, DC. The group took some serious cues from The Impressions on this record, but the more aggressive style of drumming is pushed to the front of the mix, giving the record a very unique sound.
The harmonies are earthy and gorgeous, and the swinging and propulsive groove are gonna make you feel mighty fine.