Does the world need another Drifters compilation you may ask? There are dozens available its true. Most of them are ‘Best Ofs’ or ‘Greatest Hits’ which are fine i have a couple myself. Well i would say the answer is yes, if like me you are a true fan. This new 3CD set from Strawberry Records boasts 76 tracks, including 5 unissued songs long deleted from available CD’s. Plus 2 tracks ‘I Dig Your Act’ & ‘You And Me Together Forever’ which were thought to be lost making their worldwide debut here on this collection. Over the years i have written thousands of words about the institution that is The Drifters and i have been very fortunate at different times to have worked with Ben E King & Johhny Moore. If for some reason you are new to The Drifters they were formed the year after i was born in 1953 and must now qualify for the world’s longest running band. Originally fronted by Clyde McPhatter they were 50’s R&B Stars. The story of the band is a long and complicated one and one i have told before so let’s confine ourselves to this release. The band really can be thought of in terms like a sandwich divided into 3 parts. The bottom slice being their early R&B years from 1953-1960, the top slice their re-incarnation in 1972 when they relocated to London and had a string of pop/soul hits and the meat in the middle is their glorious years contained here, with a title that does what it says on the tin. What i really like about this new compilation is that the tracks appear in chronological order, something i am always a big fan of when a project like this is put together. It allows the listener to grow with the band and hear them change and mature rather than the aforementioned ‘Best Of’s’ etc that tend to leap about all over the place in time and often make for a jarring listen. Disc1 contains 25 tracks and contains some of my favourite early soul tracks ‘Only In America’ ‘Rat Race’ ‘Vaya Con Dios’ & ‘One Way Love’ (which most people know from the hit version recorded by Cliff Bennett) sit alongside the classics ‘Up On The Roof’ ‘Under The Boardwalk’ mono & stereo mixes, ‘On Broadway’ studio & live recordings & ‘Saturday Night At The Movies’. Lead vocal duties are shared by Rudy Lewis & Johnny Moore. Everyone has their own favourite lead singer when it comes to The Drifters. For me it will always be Johnny Moore, they all have their different distinctive styles. but for me Johnny’s seemingly effortless delivery has always captivated me the most, and having had the privilege to know him i admit to also being swayed by what a really lovely guy he was. Disc2 Kicks off with the gorgeous ‘Spanish Lace’ followed by ‘The Christmas Song’, which to be honest i don’t recall hearing before but features a sublime vocal performance by Johnny, indeed it may be one of his very best ever. Other familiar favourites to me are ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I’ ‘As Long As She needs Me’ & ‘Looking Through The Eyes Of Love’ (probably better known to people through Gene Pitney’s hit version). The 2 absolute ‘classic’ hits on this disc are probably in my all time top 5 of all their hits and are records i have played at my gigs thousands of times they are, ‘Come On Over To My Place’ & ‘At The Club’ (in both mono & stereo mixes). Disc3 begins with my all time favourite single 1965’s ‘I’ll Take You Where The Musics Playing’ its the epitome of Johnny Moore at his effortless finest and has always lifted my spirits every time i’ve ever played it. Track 4 is another track i’ve always loved in ‘Up In The Streets Of Harlem’ others are ‘Memories Are Made Of This’ ‘Aretha’ & ‘Baby What I Mean’. Its here on this disc you can also hear the 2 tracks making their debut i referred to at the start. The enduring success of The Drifters wasn’t just down to their peerless singing. They also benefitted from material written by some of the best songwriters in the world Goffin/King, Ellie Greenwich, Bacharach/David, Pomus/Shuman and one of my own favourite combinations in Mann/Weil (The Crystals/The Ronettes/Righteous Brothers). They have now been making music for an incredible 7 decades. You may be a fan of their early years or of the catchy poppier years in the 1970’s, but it would be a brave person that argued against this compilation representing their finest work. The decade this covers from 1962-71 truly was the soul years and with Rudy & Johnny at the helm was a magical time. The compilation comes in a sturdy box with a very well researched and detailed booklet and the sound quality throughout is excellent, Due to space constraints i have only scratched the surface of all the joy that is waiting to be had, listening to all the wonderful treats contained here. Enjoy.
Colin Norton… Great album!
Mick O’Dowd… Love it. Love them!