The Moonglows

Look, It's the Moonglows

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The Moonglows were always among the classiest acts in the field of R&B harmony vocals -- the regular crossover of their own work to the pop charts, and the appeal of their repertory (most notably "Sincerely") into vocal pop in others' hands both speak to that point. It should, thus, come as no surprise that their first (and only official) album places a strong emphasis on elegant harmonizing, often with tasteful string arrangements -- not that there aren't some hot rhythm numbers here, especially "Kiss Me Baby" from early 1956 (and we'd love to know who the guitarist and sax-man were on that song); and "Mean Old Blues," a jaunty, swaggering dance number. But mostly the music here comes from the other end of doo wop music spectrum than, say, the work of the Cadillacs or the Coasters; it's no less valid, and equally alluring, just mostly with more emphasis on harmony than rhythm -- and it is blues, to be sure, even if the rhythm isn't always appropriate for anything other than slow dancing. Ironically, the most mainstream number here, "Cold Feet," comes at the end of the album and almost seems like an after-thought, just to show that this group could do a by-the-numbers rock & roll dance piece, and do it well. Mostly though, lead singers Harvey Fuqua and Bobby Lester delivered the R&B equivalent of a Sinatra album, in terms of sheer seductiveness. "Ten Commandments of Love," which was the hit off the album, will be the most familiar number here, but everything else is of the same quality, itself an amazing feat when one considers that, as with most early Chess Records LPs, the material here wasn't recorded with an album necessarily in mind. Rather, it was assembled from across three full years of singles sessions. And that speaks well for Leonard and Phil Chess who, on "This Is Love," "Don't Say Goodbye" and "I'll Stop Wanting You," pulled out all of the stops (and must have emptied their production budget) with the strings backing up Fuqua, Lester and company. It all holds up amazingly well five decades later, and is a part of the group's legacy that is well worth owning.

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