Jay & the Americans

Jay and the Americans

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This album offers a surprising amount of variety, mostly because three different groups of producers worked on its 12 songs. About half of Jay and the Americans shows just how well the Phil Spector-style Wall of Sound approach to pop music worked with male voices. Between the bells, a rhythm guitar that sounds like it's being strummed by God, the horns recorded at full volume, and the overall larger than life sound, you'd swear that the Bronx-born Svengali was turning the dials on "Some Enchanted Evening" -- actually, it's Gerry Granahan of Dickey Doo & the Don'ts renown who ran the session, producing not quite half of this album. "Cara Mia" is a known touchstone of operatic-style rock & roll, but nearly as overpowering is Jay Black's performance on "Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa." He's almost over the top, and once Kenny Vance, Sandy Deane, Marty Sanders, and Howie Kane come in, soaring over and around his overwrought singing, the effect is almost a sonic white-out. Luckily, there's some variety here, mostly provided by the handful of leaner-sounding songs, produced by Artie Ripp, on which individual instruments' textures are important -- Jay & the Americans come off more like a band and not a studio-bound group on "She Doesn't Know It" and "If You Were Mine Girl." Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were the producers on "Only in America," "Look in My Eyes, Maria," and "To Wait for Love (Is to Waste Your Life Away)," the latter two lesser-known Bacharach/David songs that are interesting if not exactly ear-catching as potential singles.