Various Artists

Roots of Doo Wop: Savoy Vocal Groups

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Another rewarding reissue from Savoy's vaults (treasure horde would be a better descriptor), Roots of Doo Wop: Savoy Vocal Groups pulls together 20 nuggets of early close harmony bliss, most in the sincere ballad tradition made famous by the Mills Brothers and the Ravens. Savoy didn't record many popular vocal groups, since jazz was their bag; the only names here that really belong in the doo wop firmament are those mighty Ravens as well as the Larks (the latter moonlighting for the label as the Four Barons). Additions from subsidiaries or later catalog purchases from bankrupt labels make for an interesting compilation, though most of these fall prey to the problem with much doo wop: The performances are solid and the feeling is there, but the songs are rather anonymous, usually subtle re-creations of earlier tunes or slight variations on a type -- great harmonizing definitely lended itself to similar forms of expression. Exceptions to the rule are certainly present, led by "Fifty Million Women" from the Carols featuring Tommy Evans, who briefly replaced supreme bass stylist Jimmy Ricks in the Ravens and sang with the Drifters during the '60s. The Ravens' tracks aren't their best but are certainly enjoyable, and especially nice are a pair of high-tenor features for the self-billed Joe Van Loan ("Until I Fell for You") and George Tindley of the Dreams ("Darlene"). Billy Vera, doo wop's greatest fan, really spins a web with his liner notes, conjuring images of gospel groups gone secular and foursomes that lasted a single session before their members moved on.

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