Various Artists

Jubilee Jezebels

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Jubilee Jezebels is the first in a two-part series devoted to the divas of Jubilee Records, a New York label that recorded primarily black artists for a mixed audience. The two dozen recordings on the first volume are split between five artists: Edna McGriff, Little Sylvia, Viola Watkins, Carol Fran, and the Enchanters, an all-female vocal group. Edna McGriff, whose "Heavenly Father" was a Top Five R&B hit in 1952, has never been anthologized, but an album's worth of her recordings can be found between the two volumes of Jubilee Jezebels and Sonny Til's Solo Featuring Edna McGriff, which has six of her duets with the Orioles' lead singer. Although her backing band is unmistakably R&B, McGriff's smooth vocal style seems a natural for the crossover pop success she never attained. Little Sylvia is actually a young Sylvia Vanderpool, who would go on to become half of the popular duo Mickey & Sylvia in the mid-'50s. Her sassy "Drive Daddy Drive" leads off the compilation, but she also covers Damita Jo's "I Went to Your Wedding," and declares that she'll never fall in love on the rocking "Ain't Gonna Do It." The midtempo bongo bopper "Really Real" was Viola Watkins' only commercial release on Jubilee; her two other sides here are previously unreleased ballads. The Enchanters, an early girl group, often arranged their songs so that Della Simpson sang lead while the others provided backup, but "How Could You" spotlights the groups' four-part harmonies. Carol Fran's recordings are the oddities of the bunch because they originally appeared on the Port label -- not Jubilee -- and were cut more than a decade later than all of the other material on the compilation. Although polished and expressive, her mid-'60s soul ballads don't really fit stylistically, despite the liner notes' protestations to the contrary. Jubilee Jezebels, Vol. 2 contains additional tracks by all five of the abovementioned acts, as well as a few others.

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