The Five Keys

Dream On

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Strictly speaking, this 24-song collection misses the best-known Five Keys material, instead covering their history with King Records, where they signed after their stays with Aladdin and Capitol Records, and after the departure of original lead singer Rudy West. Thomas Threat is singing lead, backed by Bernie West, Ripley Ingram, Maryland Pierce, and Dickie Smith. But musically, this is an extraordinarily powerful body of work, an hour of stirring and stunningly beautiful vocal R&B, passionate, jaunty, and representative of the best of what this music had to offer before the arrival of Motown co-opted the sound and took it into new directions. The songs were cut between August of 1959 and March of 1960, and feature the group once again as a pure R&B vocal harmony ensemble, without any of the pop-style embellishments of their Capitol sides. The material is, in many ways, a throwback to their early sides, with soulful ballads dominating. At various times, they sound like the Platters or the Coasters, and even Bo Diddley's influence shows up on "Will You." Both the title tune and "Too Late" show Thomas Threat sounding more than a little like Jackie Wilson or Clyde McPhatter in their respective primes. Even the novelty tunes here work: "Dancing SeƱorita" is presented with such infectious good spirits that it is impossible not to like. The only pity is that the session records don't reveal the names of the backup bandmembers, who were also quite good here.

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