The Good Life with the Drifters

The Drifters

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The Good Life with the Drifters Review

by Bruce Eder

During the Drifters' 19 years on Atlantic Records, nine LPs of their music were released, but in all of that time and among that array of 12" platters, this was the only one that was recorded as an actual album, as opposed to having been assembled from singles and B-sides. And the irony is that it is really a Drifters album in name only -- it's credited to the group, and the four singing members are shown on the front cover, but Johnny Moore is the main focus throughout and the rest of the group is pushed so far into the background that they're scarcely audible. The Good Life was produced by Tom Dowd with the goal of creating a soft pop album, similar to the kind of supper club music that Sam Cooke delved into and that Sammy Davis, Jr. was making. Johnny Moore was up to the task but the choice of material was less than inspiring -- his intonation is beautiful, and the nuances of his singing embrace the songs and their melodies, but he also sounds unchallenged and, indeed, almost bored doing songs like "Tonight," "On the Street Where You Live," and "What Kind of Fool Am I."

What makes this record doubly frustrating is that, with Dowd producing, the elegant orchestrations have a magnificent sound technically, but it is just not a Drifters record or representative of what they or Johnny Moore were about. On the other hand, for all of its flaws, it is an interesting attempt at an unofficial Johnny Moore solo record, and he does reveal himself as at least having had the potential to be another Sam Cooke, although on "Temptation," the old Nacio Herb Brown/Arthur Freed chestnut and the most awkward track here (Moore's voice having been dubbed onto a backing track originally recorded with Ben E. King in 1959), he sounds more like he's trying to imitate Howard Keel. As a result of its unusual origins, this is the least desirable Drifters album among their classic Atlantic long-players, although fans of Johnny Moore will find it a choice addendum to their classic sides, and it is relatively easy to find among their non-"best-of" albums. In its defense, it did make it to number 103 on the charts, probably on the strength of the recent hit "Saturday Night at the Movies" having been stuck onto it (which completely broke up the underlying sound and concept of the sessions and the LP anyway).

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