Jay & the Americans

Live & Unreleased

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This archival release -- which would have made a great last disc in a Jay & the Americans four-disc box -- should delight serious fans of the group, the first nine songs representing their sole concert release. The show in question dates from April 2, 1970 (in Passaic, NJ), the period in which the group was riding the charts once again thanks to Wax Museum and its follow-up, and includes their then-current single, "Walkin' in the Rain"." The recording isn't ideal, lacking some presence, although all of the voices and instruments are represented and it is clear and boosts up well -- even casual listeners may enjoy the selection of songs, which includes "Let's Lock the Door," "Cara Mia," "She Cried," "Only in America," and "Come a Little Bit Closer"." The group and their backing band pretty well re-create the arrangements of the classic recordings, and the only surprise is how infectiously, refreshingly appealing even the most familiar of these numbers -- especially "Cara Mia" -- are when performed with genuine passion and joy. The outtakes are quite varied in their origins, encompassing "No More" and "Forgive Me," by Jay Black and Marty Sanders -- working as the Two Chaps -- in 1958, "Wisdom of a Fool" (the debut recording by the original Jay & the Americans), and some 1970s sides recorded by various incarnations of the group and Jay Black as a solo artist, the latter including a dramatic version of "Love Is in the Air." As a capper, the producers have thrown up the Drifters' rendition of "Only in America," which has shown up since on several Drifters collections.