Friday, February 18, 2005

Get Your Own.

glisten: The Orioles

The Orioles - "I Cover the Waterfront"

The Orioles - "My Baby's Gonna Get It"

The Orioles are a Baltimore vocal group founded in 1946, pre-dating their MLB counterparts by seven years. The Orioles are generally referred to as the grandpappys of rhythm and blues; they were also among the very first black artists to break through to the pop charts. The band lasted over twenty years in various incarnations, always with lead singer Sonny Til at the helm.

This style of singing is a bit drippy and certainly more than a tad dated, but I can't help but find it terribly endearing. In any case, this doesn't sound OUTdated; in fact, it's quite surprising just how little modern RnB balladeering has advanced in sixty years. Consider: sixty years prior to the Orioles, the 'barbershop quartet' sound was only just becoming popular; can we honestly suggest that modern music has made analogous sonic leaps within the same duration? Probably not.

"I Cover the Waterfront" is a beautiful rendition of the thirties era Johnny Green composition from the film of the same name. Fabulous harmonies and the soft fuzz of surface noise on the record are tremendously evocative of a different, sepia-toned time.

"My Baby's Gonna Get It" is about as different from "Waterfront" as it could be; it's raucous and swinging and spectacularly ribald. The jingly piano and thumping toms remind me of Willie Dixon's classic "29 Ways", another thinly veiled "gonna fuck tonight" song. Even though the fun is somewhat spoiled by Til revealing that his baby is in awe not of "It" but of "that diamond ring", the party can't stop boppin' while that sax is wailin' and hands is clappin'.

For those that would like to listen to MORE of this band and would like to find a few more select tracks coughsoulseekcough; I can recommend "Waiting", "Along About Sundown", "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve", "Deacon Jones", "Barbra Lee", "Cigareetos", "How Blind Can You Be" and "Don't Keep It To Yourself".

If you find that you've acquired a taste for this sort of vocal sound, be aware that there's plenty of groups out there to explore with a similiar flavor; just among secular bands, take a gander at the music of the Mills Brothers, The Cats and the Fiddle, the Inkspots, the Five Red Caps and (my favorites) the Four Vagabonds.

These songs find their way to my page via a CONSIDERABLE haul of new tunage uncovered on my trip to Tennessee. I took advantage of the time off to reload with about thirty CDs I managed to cop from my father's formidable collection; I'll be leaking little goodies from that haul to th' Hut for at least the next month or two. Possible pipeline fodder includes earth-shatterers from Uncle Dave Macon, Brother Claude Ely, the Fairfield Four, Little Richard, Marion Abernathy and the Skylarks. Any votes?

Buy The Orioles "For Collectors Only", a three disc compilation of the bands high points, from Amazon.

If thirty bucks seems like too much for three discs of Orioles material (it's not), you can always opt for the greatest hits collection instead.

If you feel like three discs isn't enough Orioles for you (it almost certainly is), you can splurge on this more extensive six disc box set, priced at a hundred and sixty smackers.
Read this fairly extensive bio of the group.
Kinda offbeat that it would appear on a site with a prominently displayed Dixie flag but that's the internet for you.
Visit the Vocal Group Record of the Week site for more of the same.
This guy maintains a WONDERFUL site and even if I dislike having to fumble about with realaudio and WMA files, I'm terribly excited to find it.

Also visit the Doo Wop Jukebox for dozens MORE doo wop hits (mostly from bands in the New York area) on RA and MP3 format.
Scroll down to the bottom to hear a thirty minute interview with Orioles frontman, the now deceased Sonny Til.
Meet the newest Oriole.