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Monday, October 2, 2017

The Chantels: The Chantels On Tour


1) Look In My Eyes; 2) Summertime; 3) Glad To Be Back; 4) Still; 5) I Lost My Baby; 6) My Chick Is Fine; 7) Well I Told You; 8) You'll Never Know; 9) Here It Comes Again; 10) Vut Vut; 11) They Say; 12) You Can't Go It Alone.

Please remember that any time you see an early Sixties record titled «The So-And-Sos On Tour», it means that (a) with 99.99% probability, the so-and-sos are not on tour, and (b) with about 80% probability, you are dealing with a rip-off (I exclude The Animals On Tour from this category, because that album still had plenty of great tracks — but, of course, all of them were recorded in the studio). For The Chantels, both of these principles work like crazy, because not only is this album a mish-mash of studio recordings from various sessions, but it is not even completely a Chantels record: squint your eyes long enough and you will see the fine print stating "and other selections starring Chris Montez, The Imperials, Gus Backus" — meaning that Carlton Records, to which The Chantels had been signed in 1961, couldn't even scrape together enough tracks for a short 12-song LP, and had to support them with a five-song «sampler» of their other artists. In­cluding, sure enough, a very very young and still totally obscure Chris Montez (before he had his big breakthrough hit, ʽLet's Danceʼ), and a couple generic tunes from Del-Vikings member Gus Backus (one rockabilly and one doo-wop number).

That said, the remaining seven Chantels songs are not uninteresting. This is where you will find their last big hit, ʽLook In My Eyesʼ; but they also do a solid rendition of ʽSummertimeʼ (unfor­tunately, spoiled by excessive strings that overshadow both the lead vocals and the harmonies), a funny sequel to ʽHit The Road Jackʼ (ʽWell I Told Youʼ) where the girls take the liberty of taking it all back ("Well I told you to hit the road, Jack, I'm sorry now, won't you come on back?"), and then there's a couple of tracks with genuinely soaring harmonies (ʽHere It Comes Againʼ), a little roughly produced, perhaps, but showing that they were still willing to perfect their craft even when nobody was buying the records any more. And Annette Smith's high register is so consis­tently powerful that she is on the verge of inventing a new vocal style, «kick-ass sweetness» (ʽGlad To Be Backʼ) — typically, most of the singing girls back then either had it rough and tough or tender and fragile, which makes her somewhat special among the crowd.

Apparently, this was not quite the end of The Chantels: in some form or other, they persisted all through the 1960s, with their last official single released on RCA as late as 1970 (an upbeat mix of R&B and sunshine pop, called ʽLove Makes All The Difference In The Worldʼ and featuring a newly returned Arlene Smith); however, this was accompanied by constant line-up changes, and they never really got a properly solid recording contract. Which is too bad, because both Arlene and Annette had potential, and it would be possible to envisage a situation where a girl group, fronted by both of them at the same time (a pretty nice contrast), could survive and prosper, given the right publicity and the right material. These girls, alas, met with no such luck, but, heck, at least they got their three minutes of fame and a chance to be remembered by small communities of doo-wop and early Sixties' fans — how many from that epoch were even less lucky?

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