Various Artists

Doo Wop Delights: The Hartford Groups

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This is an unusual collection, even for Relic --16 previously unissued songs by acts that include Gene Pitney at the outset of his career. Drawn from the roster of John Rys' Recording Co. Associates in Hartford, Connecticut, the songs include stunning performances by the Five Bel Aires, featuring John Hall ("Wedding Bells," "Come On Home") and Henry Hall ("House of Love," "My Friends," "I'm So Happy"), the Embers featuring Larry Lee ("Winter's Romance," "Tremble") and Gene Pitney ("Darkness," Victory," "Runaway Lover," "So Tired"), and the Serenaders featuring Larry Lee ("Too Young," "Dreams of Heaven"). Pitney's voice during this era (1957-60) sounds uncannily like that of Clyde McPhatter, and the songs, authored by Pitney, are first-rate as well. The fact that not one of the songs on this album ever got issued is astonishing -- the Five Bel Aires were at least a match for the likes of the Five Satins and the Nutmegs, both doo wop acts from Connecticut that made it, and could rock out as well as harmonize in elegant fashion. Apparently Rys was never able to conclude the deal that he needed with an active record label (there may have been a missed chance with Old Town Records), and the tapes languished for 30 years, until Relic got hold of them. Apart from Pitney, none of the artists featured here ever made it in the music business, but they deserve to be heard, which this release at least assures. The sound, incidentally, is excellent, and half of the material is in good quality true stereo.

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