Wanna Hear You Say “Yeah”
BY THE HARMONIOUS 5
A few words from Ms. Bettye Lavette:
I have been singing Rhythm & Blues since 1962, so I think I know a little bit about it.
When you take four of the finest musicians I know, and put them together with some of my favorite songs from my favorite period of Rhythm & Blues music, including one of my all time favorite groups, The Five Royales, you've got a fan in me.
Ed Alstrom, Dave Keyes, Mark Berger, and Frank Pagano are four musicians who are masters of their instruments. I was very surprised to hear how well Ed plays guitar, as I only knew him as an excellent keyboard player. And their harmonies are flawless, both live and on this recording.
Rhythm & Blues has grown and evolved so much since the late 40s, and musicians like these have been so instrumental in helping that to happen. I, for one, am grateful that they are keeping the music of my youth alive. I am completely impressed. - Bettye LaVette
The Harmonious Five are: Ed Alstrom (guitar), Dave Keyes (piano), Mark Berger (bass), Frank Pagano (drums) - all singing, all the time!
TUNES: The Real Thing - Down in the Alley - Truck & Trailer - Go Ahead and Burn - Idol With The Golden Head - Greasy Chicken - Miss Sticks - Move Mr. Man - Johnny Little - Thing-A-Ma-Jig - I Got To Learn To Mambo - Put A Chain On It - Miss Sticks Again - Don’t Be Ashamed - Young Blood - Thirty Second Lover - Sent Up
Rhythm & Blues of the 1950s-early 1960s is a world unto itself, and a seemingly inexhaustible treasure trove of music that is raw, witty, and outright groovy. Not only was it a profound influence on the Beatles, Stones, Animals, et al, who integrated it into broader consciousness via the British Invasion, but a good deal of it fortunately ‘crossed over’ on its own in its original incarnations and became hits as well.
The Harmonious Five’s desire is to treat this music with the love it deserves and reproduce it as authentically as we can. We are trying to mine a particular sub-field of group vocal harmony, but also trying to bring to light some of the wittier and more obscure material that not many people are aware of. If we turn anyone on to researching some of these great artists and the original recordings of these chestnuts on their own, mission accomplished.
What we’ve found playing this stuff live is that people say they haven’t heard most of this material before, but it’s somehow vaguely recognizable to them; in other words, they are fooled into thinking they’ve heard it before, probably because the basic sound is familiar and it has the irresistibly wacky lyrical flavor and groove of the hits they know.
For example, it would have been a no-brainer to cover the popular hit “Do You Love Me” by the Contours (as The Dave Clark Five and many others did), but its flip side, the little known “Move Mr. Man”, is a lot more along the lines of what we’re after.
The 5 Royales are quite simply one of the greatest groups ever in any genre, and have gone sadly unrecognized for not only their brilliant vocalizing, but for the wit and wisdom of Lowman Pauling’s songwriting and guitar playing. Three of their astounding tunes are in the mix here. Do yourself a big musical favor and check out all of their stuff.
The Coasters were one group that crossed over with great success and are a prime example of the ‘je nai sais quoi’ of vintage R&B. Again, we didn’t want to go for their ‘hits’, although “Young Blood” may be the most recognizable song here since it was the B-side of their well known chart success “Searchin’”. “Idol With The Golden Head” is one of The Coasters’ more obscure records and is lyrically outrageous even by Leiber and Stoller’s lofty standards.
In hunting for repertoire, we found ourselves organically drawn to what we’ve come to call ‘aborted dance craze’ tunes, like the Flares’ “Truck and Trailer” (can’t you just picture this dance in a sweaty juke joint?!), the Delacardos’ “Thing-A-Ma-Jig”, and the maniacal Andre Williams’ “Greasy Chicken” (which, of course, was the followup to the “Bacon Fat”!). While it can hardly be classified as an aborted dance craze, Ivory Joe Hunter’s ode to the mambo falls loosely under this heading as well.
Clever lyrics abound here, too. Chris Kenner, who wrote many poignant lyrics, perhaps was never funnier than in describing the poor sad sack in “Johnny Little”. The obscure Raymond Lewis from New Orleans contributes not only the amazing “Miss Sticks” (picture that young lady if you can!), but thoughtfully provides a sequel to it which was the flip side of the original 45. The clincher might well be the Falcons’ “Sent Up”. This 45 from 1957 was amazingly backed with a Christmas song!
It was very enjoyable but not easy to sift through this cornucopia of great songs and limit ourselves to seventeen selections. There are thousands of these records, many on the smallest of labels that only hard-core aficionados would dare bother to seek out. We’re still stumbling across new ones all the time; the well seems to be bottomless.
Enjoy the sounds, and check out the original versions and the original artists, too!
The Harmonious Five