By the early 70s many would have considered that the Ovations were at the end of their career. Their last hit had been in 1967 and their record label stopped operating in 1969. They were still performing a series of club dates in the South but without any new material these would soon fry up. It looked as if the group would become just another slice of Memphis soul history, forgotten as the City’s twin juggernauts of the new decade – Al Green and Isaac Hayes – swept to dominance. However, a sharp reversal in fortunes meant that by 1973 the Ovations had scored their two biggest hits and had released the two albums that are featured on this CD.
The Ovations’ roots were in the early 60s vocal group the Del Rios, who are most famous as the starting place of William Bell. Through a series of mutations, they had become the Ovations by 1964 with the line up of Louis Williams, Nathan Lewis and Elvin Lee Jones (Jones was replaced by William “Billy Boy” Young at a later date). Over the next five years they released nine singles for Goldwax scoring in 1965 with ‘It’s Wonderful To Be In Love’ and following that on with tours with many of the biggest names in soul music, including Otis Redding and Gladys Knight and the Pips.
When former Goldwax songwriter Dan Greer became head of A&R and production at the Sounds Of Memphis label in 1971he saw the Ovations as the hit act that he needed, signed them and immediately started to gather a team around him that could make the right records. This included Muscle Shoals band the Trade Winds, the Hi rhythm section, and perhaps most importantly, George Jackson. Together, beautiful backdrops were created for for Louis, Nathan and William’s voices. The first single, ‘Touching Me’, went Top 20 in the R&B charts and although the two follow-ups failed to chart, the sublime “Hooked On A Feeling” LP was issued.
Pondering on what was the best way to really break the group Greer decided to record Louis Williams on a Sam Cooke cover version, and when ‘Having A Party’ was released it went Top 10, giving the Ovations their biggest chart success. An album was ordered to capitalise on the success of the single, with Dan Greer as producer. As Nathan and Billy Boy had temporarily left the group, he and George Jackson sang back-up vocals on the tracks. It was another triumph of Memphis soul. It was also the Ovations final album for Sounds Of Memphis, although Louis cut many fine recordings for them up until the late 1970s.
By Dean Rudland