The Dells

Always Together: Great Chess Ballads

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Always Together: Great Chess Ballads Review

by Richie Unterberger

As Clive Richardson admits in his liner notes, this British compilation is similar to the 1998 American MCA CD collection Oh What a Night! The Great Ballads, which was out of print by the time this 2007 anthology appeared. All 15 of the songs from Oh What a Night! The Great Ballads also appear on Always Together: Great Chess Ballads. The difference between the two discs, however, is a substantial one. Always Together: Great Chess Ballads adds six more tracks, including a previously issued one (the 1972 outtake "You Changed My Life Around") and a cut ("Since I Found You") that had not been issued until the 1992 comp On Their Corner: The Best of the Dells. This isn't the best place to start for those who want an overview of the Dells' Chess period (which many soul fans regard as both their artistic and commercial peak), by simple virtue of the absence of up-tempo numbers that were also a major part of their appeal, such as the 1968 smash "There Is." If you do favor their ballads, however, it's certainly a solid assortment of Chess material in that vein, including its share of hits ("O-O I Love You," "Always Together," "Oh What a Night," "I Can't Do Enough," "Open Up My Heart," and the way-sentimental "I Can Sing a Rainbow/Love Is Blue") as well. On both these songs and the less celebrated ones, they often sound, more than any other major soul stars of the late '60s and early '70s, like updaters of the doo wop tradition, albeit brought into contemporary trends with slicker production. There's just one minor omission to point out: although Oh What a Night! The Great Ballads included the first-ever CD appearance of the original long version of "Open Up My Heart," Always Together: Great Chess Ballads includes the much shorter three-and-a-half-minute version instead.

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