Rich, smooth harmonies from a great Baltimore vocal group
Paul Haspel | State College, PA | 05/21/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mention "the Orioles from Baltimore," and most people will probably think of the major league baseball team that is, as I write these words, mired in last place in the American League East, with a record of 13-29 (ouch). But the Orioles who are of interest here are the great vocal group that came out of Baltimore in the late 1940's and exerted a great influence on the development of American popular music through the richness and power of their vocal harmonies. So strong was the Orioles' influence that they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995; sadly, however, even many dedicated fans of rock, blues, or R & B do not know the Orioles' work. This album provides a very fine introduction to the group. Generally, the instrumental arrangements on these songs are relatively muted; as a result, the listener's attention focuses on the Orioles' complex, multi-layered vocal harmonies. My favorite song on this album is "Baby, Please Don't Go," a relatively uptempo number with a magnificent blues texture. I also like the gentle, contemplative "I Cover the Waterfront"; the title calls to mind the 1930's best-seller by Max Miller about San Diego waterfront life (and the 1933 film adaptation with Claudette Colbert), and its ambience seems well-suited to a mist-shrouded night on the Baltimore waterfront. The liner notes provide helpful information regarding the life and work of lead singer Sonny Til, the birth and development of the Orioles, lineup changes, and the manner in which the group's popularity waxed and waned. Like Billie Holiday, the Orioles are a vital part of the rich African American musical legacy of Baltimore, and their music is a great gift to the world."