Sunday, 30 June 2013

Back On Chapel Hill

Some kind person has uploaded the Ravens' long-missing On Chapel Hill to youtube, so  that once again it may sing out underhindered on this blog. You can find the earlier post where it's discussed, and more about the Ravens, here, along with a clip of their sublime version of There's No You, featuring the fathoms-deep voice of Jimmy Ricks.

But if you'll indulge me and stay that clickhappy digit for a mo, I want to add a bit more about On Chapel Hill Here.

Now, there's no doubt that the clip below counts as OTT doowop - you've only got to listen to the ending. And throughout the performance Jimmy Ricks' lead suggests obsession and pain bigtime - the darker side, you might say, of the self-deluding guy in that Doobie Brothers' song What a Fool Believes:

As she rises to her apology
Anybody else would surely know
He's watching her go ...
Ricks sounds like he's already gone beyond that: not a fool, but a nutcase. Unless she really is coming back, who knows?

But it's odd, listening to the recording. The backing is very smooth and assured, not much jazzy about it like the group's earlier songs. And the pristine quality of the audio is also sort of unsettling - I mean, it's not what you expect of doo wop.

But who cares? From that creepy organ opening I'm hooked.  I think I may have said in the earlier post that it feels like a solo recording, but actually the rest of the group feature more prominently than I remembered, even though it's Ricks' show - well, it has to be, with a voice like that, and although there is a moment when we hear an alternating lead it's very brief. 

The relevant Unca Marvy page about the Ravens is here, and it seems that On Chapel Hill was released only a few months before Ricks left once for all, as John Betjeman would say:
And then, the end of an era: Jimmy Ricks left the Ravens for good around the beginning of 1956. There is probably no way to measure the effect Ricky had on R&B, other than to say that he was a yardstick; every R&B bass was held up to Jimmy Ricks to be measured. There were many other basses of note: Bill Brown (Dominoes), Harold Winley (Clovers), Herb Reed (Platters), Gerald Gregory (Spaniels), however, none of them was Jimmy Ricks.

Earlier post about the Ravens, discussing Chapel Hill, here.

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