The Four Knights

Oh Baby!: Best of, Vol. 1

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The Four Knights have never gotten the kind of respect that other black vocal groups of their era received -- there are no box sets or other multi-disc European reissues of their music. Indeed, until EMI's British division released this hourlong CD, the only way to get their music without tracking down the original platters was to find an obscure European-made bootleg. Part of the problem was that their smooth vocal sound was almost more pop than R&B, a fact borne out when their first nationally charting Capitol single, "Sentimental Fool" b/w "Sunshine," made it to number 23 on the pop listings but was absent from the R&B chart. Most of their music took the form of slow romantic ballads, broken up by the occasional harder "rhythm" number such as "I Go Crazy." This 22-song compilation assembles the group's singles, including some B-sides, in beautifully glittering sound, exquisitely delineating the four voices even when they work in unison, as on "The Glory of Love." It's astonishing that "I Wish I Had a Girl" b/w "The Way I Feel" never charted. Gene Alford's high tenor, which anticipated the singing of Clyde McPhatter (especially on "A Million Tears"), is the dominant solo voice (though bass Oscar Broadway even gets a spot on "Oh Happy Day"). The a cappella singing is so quiet and elegant that it more resembles the work of Nat King Cole than the work of the typical R&B vocal group -- though the Platters come to mind -- and it's no surprise that Cole used the group on one of this own albums.

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