The Sheppards

Bunky's Picks

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WestSide's Bunky's Picks is the best collection ever assembled of the Sheppards: an underappreciated and pioneering sextet from Chicago. As Bill Dahl points out in his excellent liner notes, the Sheppards' legacy was largely ignored until Solid Smoke reissued their music on a vinyl collection in 1980; named by Time critic Jay Cocks as one of the Top Ten albums of that year. This fact illustrates not just that this music lasts, but that it's perhaps even easier to respect its achievement and power years later, when it's possible to put it into perspective with what came before and since. With that hindsight, it's not hard to hear this group as a pivotal point for the music -- a harmony group with roots in doo wop who tackled a number of different sounds, including rock, pop, and blues, and helped point the direction toward soul. This doesn't necessarily mean they were influential. They were based in Chicago and were rarely heard outside of that area. While their manager and namesake Bunky Sheppard was a major figure on the scene, managing numerous other groups (most notably the Esquires); it's hard to tell if this group in particular was influential on the musicians of the 60s. That said, the music stands as prescient and tremendous; perhaps the very fact that it was created and exists in a vacuum makes it all the more remarkable. Throughout these 25 songs, many doo wop traits surface, but it's hardly street-corner harmony. The instrumentation and vocal arrangements, and pop hooks; humor; flashes of blues guitar; sweet melodies; and strings; all combine in different ways to suggest the Chicago soul of the 60s. Based on these songs, it sounds as if they could have done anything; but they also manage to seem slightly behind and ahead of their time, so they didn't make waves at the time. Looking back, this is absolutely stellar music. Cocks wasn't kidding when he named this among the best albums 1980 had to offer. Bunky's Picks ranks among the best 1998 had to offer, too, and whenever you hear this for the first time, it will be among the best music you'll hear all year, too.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:28
2 2:24
3 2:44
5 2:26
6 2:44
7 2:10
8 2:33
11 2:37
13 2:20
14 2:30
15 2:00
16 2:22
17 2:00
18 2:29
19 2:45
20 2:51
21 2:38
22 2:41
23 2:10
24 2:15
25 2:25
blue highlight denotes track pick