The Chantels

The Look in My Eyes: The Best of Carlton & Ludix Years

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The Chantels' story is usually told in terms of Arlene Smith's involvement with the group, and little is said of their work after her departure, following their being dropped by End Records. This disc covers their lesser-known but equally beguiling early 1960s sides for the Carlton and Ludix labels, when their lead singer was Annette Smith. The material is palpably different from the classic Chantels' sound, mostly because the early '60s weren't the late '50s -- R&B had grown more sophisticated, a shift reflected in producer Richard Barrett's use of string arrangements on "Look in My Eyes" and its even prettier B-side, "Glad to Be Back," which heralded a new Chantels sound. Even the hard-rocking "Well I Told You" features a tasteful and effective use of an orchestra, buried very deep in the mix but just audible enough to add extra color to the up-tempo piece. The reconstituted Chantels kept their string going for close to another year, getting serious radio play on "Here It Comes Again" and cutting perhaps their prettiest vocal performance in George Gershwin's "Summertime," when Carlton Records ran into financial trouble, and they were forced to jump to Ludix, where they succeeded again with the single "Eternally." The later Barrett-composed songs are upbeat dance numbers that anticipate the sound that he would later perfect with the Three Degrees. The Chantels were, by the middle of the decade, one of the more sophisticated female R&B outfits of their era. That's the side profiled here, and it's worth hearing, even if it isn't quite the groundbreaking work of the original group. The CD is nicely programmed.

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