The Larks

The Best of the Larks

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These eighteen tracks, encompassing 1961-1970 singles and a couple of unreleased cuts, are like a snapshot of Philadelphia soul during the time: almost pure doo wop at its conception, and sweet and orchestrated by the decade's conclusion. Like many such releases, this compilation is testimony to the depth of the Philadelphia soul scene, which harbored numerous groups like the Larks; these groups made some local noise, recorded often, explored several different stylistic paths, and devised a good chunk of original material, yet never became nationally known. And, like many such releases, although the songs are fairly good, they're not so excellent, and the Larks do not exert the strong, consistent, and innovative personality that would qualify them as a major act. Indeed, as six lead singers are featured over the course of the disc, the tracks often sound like the work of different groups. The Best of the Larks varies from the Flamingos-like doo wop (complete with dreamy organ) of some early cuts and the dead-ringer-for-Motown-circa-1962 sound of "For the Love of Money" to the competent sub-mid-'60s female group production of "From the Bottom of My Heart (I Still Love You)" and the orchestrated pure circa-1970 Philly soul of "I Need Somebody to Love You." The mid-'60s Motown sound, truth be told, gets mined quite a bit (and pretty competently) on the songs featuring female vocals, including "Groovin' at the Go Go," "Without You Baby," and "Rain," the last of which leans more toward the more mature late-'60s Motown sound of Gladys Knight or the Temptations. Barbara Mason takes the lead on just one song here, the 1964 single "Dedicated to You," one of the Larks' last doo wop throwbacks. A nice fill-in-the-gaps compilation of a mid-level but worthy Philadelphia group, although the absence of any dates, songwriting credits, or original labels in the credits is lame.