Various Artists

Larry Banks' Soul Family Album

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Larry Banks will always be best known as the co-writer of "Go Now," a soul-pop classic originally recorded by his onetime wife Bessie Banks, and covered for a big transatlantic hit by the Moody Blues. He did quite a bit of other songwriting and producing, however. This CD gathers 24 songs (half previously unreleased) that he either wrote, co-wrote, and/or co-produced from the mid-'60s to the early '70s, leading off, naturally, with Bessie Banks' "Go Now." Larry Banks himself is the singer on five of the cuts, though Bessie is only heard from on one other selection. As good as "Go Now" was, however, it didn't mean that Larry Banks wasn't essentially a more talented than average journeyman who never did match the quality of the most celebrated recording to which he contributed. The material here is fairly diverse, ranging from sweet late-'60s slick soul harmony vocal group productions and melodramatic orchestrated uptown soul to near girl group outings and occasional tracks with heavy echoes of Motown artists like Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, and the Temptations. Just one hitmaking artist (the Exciters) is represented, and even their cut is a 1968 single from way past their prime. But while a good deal of this disc is ordinary, there are some above-the-norm (though not immortal) songs that serious soul fans will enjoy hearing. Those include Jaibi's dramatic "What Good Am I?" (where Banks' flair for slightly unusual soul-pop melodies is well in evidence); the Geminis' gutsy girl group-shaded, previously unreleased 1966 cuts "Come on Act Right" and "He Moves Me"; another decent, earlier girl group effort from the Pleasures, "Don't You Know (I Love You)"; and the Exciters' exuberant, party funk-tinged "You Don't Know What You're Missing ('Til It's Gone)." Incidentally, the Moody Blues' hit cover of "Go Now" is slammed several times in the liner notes for stealing Bessie Banks' thunder. As unpopular as it might be with soul purists to point this out, it should be noted that Banks' version (according to these liner notes) came out in January 1964. The Moody Blues' cover did not come out until the end of that year in the U.K. (and a few months later in the U.S.), by which time Banks' original had already had its chance to become a big hit. Banks' original is certainly a fine record that deserved more exposure, but the wrath directed at a cover version that became a hit (and was also a fine record, as it happens) long after the original failed in the marketplace is misplaced.

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