Good things come in pairs: just ask Noah. There was a time when the market was flooded with duettists looking to double their success quotient by pooling their talents, and nowhere more so was that prevalent than in the world of rhythm'n'blues. The concept has always had commercial potential and throughout the 50s and 60s, many pairings would enjoy international chart status. This new collection though probes a whole lot deeper and by licensing masters from a wide variety of sources Ace has brought together some of the finest and most influential R&B twosomes of all time.
Listening to Etta James with Harvey Fuqua and Brook Benton with Dinah Washington for instance, is proof enough that some people were simply born to sing with each other. That special chemistry, which only occurs when the vibe is a strong as the song, is clearly in evidence throughout the sassified If I Can't Have You and the free wheeling Baby (You've Got What It Takes). The main strength of the boy/girl duos was usually teasers and pleasers like Mickey & Sylvia's Love Is Strange and Huey and Jerry's I Think You Jivin' Me. These were outings that were just made for jukeboxes and many a nickel was invested in repeat-play fare like The Teen Queens' Eddie My Love and Johnnie & Joe's Over The Mountain, Across The Sea. Lesser known but equally desirable items such as Willy and Ruth's original of Elvis' Love Me are to be found here for the first time on CD, along with rarities from the Imperial label via Ruth and Al, alongside Billy and Lillie from Swan Records in Philadelphia.
From these humble beginnings came the frequent anomalies that Berry Gordy pursued during the heyday of Motown, along with the Stax duets, the Atlantic couplings and many, many more. The process was simple and effective, providing of course the parties involved could tolerate each other!
By Stuart Colman