The Vibrations

Vibrating Vibrations: The OKeh and Epic Singles 1963-1968

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For a group that only had mild success on the charts, the Vibrations had a pretty long career, putting out numerous records throughout the 1960s and lasting until the mid-'70s. While they didn't stay at the Columbia-distributed OKeh and Epic labels for all that long, it was about as long a stint as they managed with any label. The Vibrating Vibrations collects 26 tracks recorded for the imprints between 1964 and 1968, a few of them previously unreleased. (Despite what the subtitle says, these were recorded from 1964-1968 and not 1963-1968, an unusual slip on the usually scrupulous Kent/Ace label's part, as the liner notes clearly state the group didn't sign to either of these labels until July 1964.) And despite the length of the CD, it's not really a best-of either of the Vibrations' entire career or of their stay at OKeh and Epic in particular. It's not only missing their earlier, more rock & roll-oriented hits "Peanut Butter," "The Watusi," and "My Girl Sloopy"; it doesn't even have all the chart singles they landed on OKeh and Epic, the collection being assembled to avoid their covers of pop standards and emphasize their most soulful sides of the era. But despite the involvement of some very big names (Curtis Mayfield, Carl Davis, Eugene Record, Kenneth Gamble, and Leon Huff) of Chicago and Philadelphia soul as producers and/or writers of much of the material, it's thoroughly average mid- to late-'60s soul that lacks either standout songs or a particularly strong group identity. There are quite a few stylistic nods to major Motown and Chicago soul acts, such as the Four Tops and the Impressions (whose Curtis Mayfield wrote "Don't Let It Hide"). But to be cold, it's just alright, nothing special. Peak cuts include "Love in Them There Hills," a 1968 Gamble & Huff production with an uncharacteristically tough and serious sound that edged into the bottom of the charts, and "Canadian Sunset," which has more close-harmony pop in the mix than they usually employed. But "If You Only Knew," which is annoyingly derivative of Little Anthony & the Imperials' "Goin' Out of My Head," is a low point; "Watusi Time" and "Sloop Dance" are shameless retreads of raucous pre-OKeh Vibrations records, and one guesses the previously unissued "I Peeped Your Hole Card" might have been vetoed for release on the grounds of the disagreeable title alone. It really might not have been a bad idea to include the group's low-charting pop covers (one of the Beatles' "And I Love Her") after all, if only to ensure a little more variety.

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