The Calvanes are a living part of doo wop history. In close on half a century they have regrouped several times. Only Bobby Adams (tenor) remains from the original line-up, although Herman Pruitt (tenor) did join in 1955, and Fred Willis (baritone) joined in 1958; newest recruit Jimmy Corbitt (bass), joined in 1990. Having been (re-)discovered by Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg (of Hightone) when recording backing vocals on "Dedicated To You" (Big Sandy and Fly Rite Boys), the band were asked to make their first album, "In Harmony."
"Travelling Stranger" gets things off to a nicely relaxed start, and is the first of several tunes that is sung acapella. On most of the tracks, however, the Calvanes are backed by a band which includes several musicians from the aforementioned "Dedicated To You." The first of these tracks is the doo wop standard "A Casual Kiss," one of a number of standards covered here. Also included is an excellent remake of their most popular recording ("Don't Take Your Love From Me"), as well as some new tunes, "You Promised Me," and "Lady Lady" which features some nice rolling piano from Carl Sonny Leyland.
Particular highlights on the album include "Buzz Buzz Buzz" complete with honking sax from Cad Cadison, "Mary Lou" which opens acapella, with finger snapping, before the band join in half way through, and the evocatively titled "When the Swallows Come Back To Capistrano," a very classy love song. The two best tracks, however, are "Adorable," and "Smokey Joe's Cafe." The former is one of those silky smooth songs that gives you a warm feeling all over, whilst the latter is guaranteed to have you joining in one the first listen. A couple of tracks after "Smokey Joe's Cafe" the album closes out in style with "Memories of El Monte." A close listen to the lyrics reveals that it includes a whistle stop tour through the Calvanes' earlier recording career.
"In Harmony" shows that great singing is great singing, regardless of which decade (or century!) we are talking about. It provides the perfect way to unwind at the end of a long day. Fans of doo wop in particular, and harmonizing male vocals more generally will want to add "In Harmony" to their collection. The Calvanes may not be in the first flush of youth, but they still sound fresh as a daisy, and you can find out more about them at (www.hightone.com).
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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