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Modern Vocal Groups Vol 3 (MP3), MP3 (£7.99)
Like the earlier volumes in this series, Volume 3 has, as its main focus, the mid-50s doo wop sound as recorded by the Bihari Brothers for their various labels. In addition, this time, there's a flavour of the earlier vocal group sound as typified by groups like the Ink Spots. The Ebonaires are featured with two of their pop-styled smooth harmonies from 1949. The bulk of the output comes from the stalwart groups of the Modern Records stable - the Cadets, Jacks, Flairs and the Crowns. The Cadets often sang cover versions on their releases on Modern, but here have two original numbers. In their role as the Jacks, they recorded more original songs. However, their most successful release Why Don't You Write Me, included here, was indeed a cover, the original being by the Feathers on the Showtime label.
The ubiquitous Richard Berry was not only a singer at various times with the Flairs, Rams and the Dreamers, but a songwriter and a solo artist at the same time, often with uncredited vocal groups behind him. He appears here in many of those guises, for example, leading the Cadets on God Gave Me You and as the male voice in front of the girls in the Dreamers. He was also in the one-off group the Chimes, which was a spin-off from the Flairs. Both sides of their sole single (Flair 1051) are included here - a $500 item if you happen to have it on the red label.
You don't often associate the strong voice of Etta James with a vocal group, but that is indeed how she first started out. The little-heard Hold Me, Squeeze Me, the flip of Wallflower, features Etta singing together with the Peaches and is heard here on reissue for the first time.
Some rarer items that should make the record collector's mouth water are included in this volume. Both sides of Curtis Irvin & Sparks' only single are included, as is Oo Wah by Buddy Milton & Twilighters. It was common on the Modern group of labels for a vocal group to record under two or more names, but in the case of Oo Wah we have the situation in which a recording came out several times, crediting totally different groups!
As usual, the compilation and notes are by Gordon Skadberg and the guys at Early Bird Records, Inc. Their compilation concludes with the Laurels, led by Bobby Relf. Bobby was both a soloist and the lead singer on Laurels recordings on other West Coast labels. His greatest claim to fame came later when, along with Earl Nelson, he was part of the Bob & Earl duo, famous for Harlem Shuffle. Here he leads on Farewell, but Modern vocal group collectors should not despair. Even after this latest outing, there's enough great doo wop in the Modern vaults for at least another couple of volumes.
By Peter Gibbon