Saturday, 15 March 2014

New Flamingos compilation includes Decca sides

Wow! At last there is a Flamingos compilation which includes the sides they recorded for Decca.

It's issued by public domain label Jasmine, responsible for the earlier Dream of a Lifetime 2CD set, and the perfect complement to it in terms of track selection as it collects the End label recordings they missed out before - there was just a selection - so if you have both sets I presume that that will cover everything commercially issued by this superlative group up until the end of 1962.

Rather cannily, that earlier collection ended with I Only Have Eyes For You on the End label, thus ensnaring the casual purchaser, but at the expense of chronology as their Decca sides came in between Chess and End.They only included Ladder of Love from Decca.

There is an earlier post about the Dream of a Lifetime collection here. But to cut a long story short, it was the first compilation to assemble their Chance, Parrot, Chess and a selection of their End recordings in one place and was fairly cheap, as befits a public domain issue.

To my ears, however, sound quality was okay rather than great. If you listen to the Flamingos CD issued as part of the Chess 50th anniversary celebrations, or the Chance recordings issued alongside those of the Flamingos in 1993 (by what seems to be Vee Jay itself) then you can hear just how clear and full those original recordings really are. Jasmine, by contrast, don't seem to want to get too trebly and exposing of their (presumably vinyl) sources.

The Chess CD even includes what sound like master tapes masters from Parrot which far outshine the sources on Jasmine - or, for that matter, Donn Filetti's two Golden Era of Doowops: Parrot Records compilations. As to how those masters ended up in Chess's vaults, who knows? And annoyingly, it's only a few Parrot sides. Wonder if the others still exist somewhere?

If I'm getting in too deep for some readers the main point is that the Flamingos' best recordings are so good if you like this kind of thing that it is worth searching out the best sources - or at least I am impelled to point such sources out in the belief that someone else might also care.
For those happy few who remain reading, I am - just for you - listening to the Decca sides just now, but as it's only on Sp*tify (the free version, so not the highest quality) I can't really judge them sonically. They are certainly seem a step up from the low quality mp3s on which I've heard most of them up to now. Kiss-A-Me can be heard on yout*be from what sounds like a vinyl source - rather scratchy and tinny.

Once the Decca sides are done, however, we are, for the most part, on the aural valium trail. Very pleasing for late night nodding-off but far removed from the sublimity of Golden Teardrops.

And yet ... listen to their rendition of Marvin and Johnny's Dream Girl. Alright, it doesn't have the magic of the original pair's rough Specialty recording (a demo which couldn't be improved upon, I believe) but it is certainly an excellent fit for the valium-era Flamingos and works on its own terms.

I will give a comprehensive list of links to the Flamingos material which peppers this blog at the end of this post but I'm pretty sure I've said something along the way about the group's ability to endure - and that was about adapting and surviving. They became a self-contained unit, playing instruments, so didn't have to be reliant on the vagaries of backing musicians as Johnny Keyes of the Magnificents recounted in his memoir Du-Wop. If they had to change with the times the longevity of their career is all the argument that's needed to justify that.

If you haven't worked it out aleady I won't be visiting their End sides all that often, but I'm very glad they've been collected, and that their Decca recordings are finally out there in digital form. The set closes with a very nice Drifters-style song I hadn't heard before entitled Come on to My Party:

Talking of less than pristine sound quality, I note that Charly, a label not renowned for care in that department, have issued a 10 (count 'em!) CD set of Vee Jay material - bit of a step up from their earlier 4CD set, which I have. On a well-known shopping website there was an argument between punters about the relative merits of the Charly set and a Shout Factory package. Someone said the sound on Charly was fine. Well, it wasn't, but as I bought it for my place of work, and it only cost £9.99 that wasn't too big a deal for me. The selection of tracks was certainly good.

If you're wondering why I'm going on about this in  post dedicated to the Flamingos there is a reason. (I'm not just writing at random, you know) Unlike their earlier set, the 10 CD collection includes the Flamingos' Golden Teardrops. It was originally issued on Chance but was later reissued on Vee Jay with a guitar overdubbed. As this was the form in which I first heard Golden Teardrops I am still sort of attached to it - and I have never, ever come across it on a CD. Will this new Charly set be the one to include it at last? Sadly it won't be available in North America and I don't fancy spending £45 to check it out so I can only hope that some UK reader might be able to enlighten me.

:See the complete track listing for Chicago Hit Factory - The Vee-Jay Story 1953-1966 on Charly's UK website here. I haven't heard it.

Links to selected Flamingos-related posts on this blog:

On first hearing Golden Teardrops (part of the "doo wop dialog" with Clarke Davis)
Earlier Flamingos set on Jasmine (includes more Flamingos links at end)
The Flamingos' Decca sides Part 1
The Flamingos' Decca sides Part2
Johnny Keyes' memoir Du-Wop (part of a post about the Magnificents)

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