Exciters, The


Band members                        Related acts

  line up 1 (1961) as The Masterettes

- Carol Johnson (RIP 2007) -- vocals

- Brenda Reid -- vocals

- Lillian Walker -- vocals 

- Sylvia Wilbur -- vocals

 

  line up 1 (1962) as The Masterettes

- Penny Carter -- vocals (replaced Sylvia Wilbur)

- Carol Johnson (RIP 2007) -- vocals

- Brenda Rooney -- vocals

- Lillian Walker -- vocals 

 

  line up 3 (1962-72) as The Exciters

- Carol Johnson (RIP 2007) -- vocals

- Herb Rooney (RIP) -- vocals (replaced Penny Carter)

- Brenda Reid -- vocals

- Lillian Walker -- vocals 

 

  line up 4 (1972) as The Exciters

- Skip McPhee -- vocals

- Ronnie Pace -- vocals

- Herb Rooney (RIP) -- vocals (replaced Penny Carter)

- Brenda Reid -- vocals

 

 

 

 

- The Beltones (Herb Rooney) 

- Brenda and Herb (Herb Rooney and Brenda Reid)

- The Masters (Herb Rooney) 

- The Masterettes (Carol Johnson, Brenda Reid, 

  Lillian Walker and Sylvia Wilbur)

- Brenda Reid and the New Exciters

 

 

 


 

Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Caviar and Chitlins

Company: RCA

Catalog: LSP-4211
Year:
 1969

Country/State: Jamaica, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6276

Price: $80.00

 

I've always wondered why The Exciters didn't enjoy greater commercial successes given their talents.  Brenda Reid had an amazing voice - tough, but highly commercial and was more than the equal to scores of contemporaries who enjoyed far more commercial recognition and success.  How do you explain something like that ?

 

1968 found the group signed to their fifth label in six years (which may have at least partially explained the lack of greater commercial success).  Signed by RCA Victor, they made their debut with a sterling single that should have burned up the charts:

 

 

 

- 'If You Want My Love' b/w 'Take One Step (I'll Take Two)' (RCA Victor catalog number 47-9633)

 

While it wasn't a massive commercial success. the song did well enough for RCA management to green light an album - 1969's "Caviar and Chitlins".  Co-produced by Larry Banks, Paul Robinson, and Herb Rooney the album clearly put the spotlight of lead singer Reid.  While Rooney was pictured on the cover, with the exception of 'You Got Me' and 'A Year Ago' he was notably absent from the performances.  With Banks and Rooney responsible for writing all ten tracks, material like ''Fight That Feelin'', 'I Don't Have To Worry (No More)' and 'Movin' Too Slow' was clearly intended to update the group's sound, adding a contemporary soul sheen to the mix.  While it wasn't quite the psychedelic soul Norman Whitefield was churning out with The Temptations, 'Blowing Up My Mind' had a similar adult contemporary vibe, while 'You Don't Know What You're Missing (Til It's Gone)' came about as close to outright funk as The Exciters ever came.  To my ears the results were simply wonderful - among the best soul albums of the year.   You were left to wonder how popular radio and the buying public overlooked the set.

 

- Opening up with some tasty organ, 'Blowing Up My Mind' was a stomping slice of up-tempo soul.  Reid seldom sounded as good as on this one, literally slamming the lyrics out with the speed and impact of a 50 caliber machine gun.  My only complaint was the song faded out too early.   Easy to see why RCA tapped it as a leadoff single.   rating: **** stars

- Wrapped in a big horn arrangement, 'Give It All' had a more sophisticated pop sound, but unlike a lot of Motown's efforts to go 'uptown', Reid voice was strong enough to make sure the track didn't drown in an MOR puddle.   rating: **** stars

-'Fight That Feelin' found the group taking a stab at a bluesier sound and once again, thanks to the strength and quality of Reid's voice, the results were impressive.  To my ears Reid actually sounded a bit lit Aretha Franklin on this one.   rating: **** stars

- Another orchestrated, mid-tempo number, 'Always' came close to crossing the line into MOR territory.  Luckily another great Reid performance coupled with an insidiously catchy title track chorus saved the song from itself.   rating: **** stars    

- Side one's funkiest number, 'You Don't Know What You're Missing (Til It's Gone)' was a great dance track.  Kicked along by some great horns, this one was slinky and seductive with a great call-and-response arrangement between Reid and backing singers Carol Johnson and Lillian Walker.   rating: **** stars       

- With a rousing pseudo-Gospel delivery, Reid's take-no-prisoners performance on 'I Don't Have To Worry (No More)' made me a believer ...  rating: **** stars

- Showcasing Rooney on lead vocals, 'You Got Me' showcased one of the album's prettiest melodies and a near perfect vocal from Rooney. rating: **** stars    

- With some of the best female empowerment lyrics you've ever heard, 'Movin' Too Slow' was another highlight.  Reid's biting I'm-out-of-here-loser delivery was the stuff Diana Ross and the Supremes could only dream about.   rating: ***** stars 

- The first disappointment, 'If I Could See Into Tomorrow' fell face long into the MOR swamp.  Reid sang the hell out of the track, but it was just too gooey to salvage.   rating: ** stars

- I'd venture to say Rooney was the group's hidden treasure - he had a great voice and the fact he was seldom featured on lead vocals served to make his occasional performances all the more enjoyable.  With a  breezy heartbreak melody (I even liked the tropical-tinged flute accompaniment), this one sounded a but like a rouged-up Smokey Robinson pleading for a bit of sympathy.  rating: **** stars 

- One of few tracks that sounded a bit old school, 'Turn Me On' had a distinctively top-40 melody and one of Reid's toughest vocals.  Damn the woman could sing.   rating: **** stars

 

In addition to the leadoff single, the album was tapped for a follow-on 45:

 

- 1969's 'Blowing Up My Mind; b/w 'You Don't Know What You're Missing ( 'Til It's Gone!); (RCA victor catalog number 47-9723) 

 

"Caviar and Chitlins" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Blowing Up My Mind   (Larry Banks - Herb Rooney) - 2:47

2.) Give It All   (Larry Banks - Herb Rooney)- 2:39

3.) Fight That Feelin'    (Larry Banks - Herb Rooney)- 3:08

4.) Always    (Larry Banks - Herb Rooney)- 2:20

5.) You Don't Know What You're Missing (Til It's Gone)   (Larry Banks - Herb Rooney) - 3:26

 

(side 2)
1.) I Don't Have To Worry (No More)   (Larry Banks - Herb Rooney) - 3:15

2.) You Got Me   (Larry Banks - Herb Rooney) - 2:44

3.) Movin' Too Slow   (Larry Banks - Herb Rooney) - 2:50

4.) If I Could See Into Tomorrow   (Larry Banks - Herb Rooney) - 2:22

5.) A Year Ago   (Larry Banks - Herb Rooney) - 3:01

6.) Turn Me On   (Larry Banks - Herb Rooney) - 2:37

 

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  The Exciters

Company: Tomorrow

Catalog: TVI-141
Year: 1977

Country/State: Jamaica, New York

Grade (cover/record): NN / NM

Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened)

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5111

Price: $100.00

 

This one's always been a curiosity to me.  I'm a big Exciters fan having long owned three of their four 1960s-1970s studio albums, but I had no idea this one existed until I stumbled across it at a yard sale.  Even then, given the throwaway cover art, I wasn't sure it was the same group until I saw Herb Rooney's name on the liner notes.

 

How The Exciters got hooked up with the New York-based Tomorrow tax scam label is a mystery to me.  Although Rooney was listed as producer and as having written ten of the eleven tracks, given 1977's "The Exciters" was released on Tomorrow there was a good chance that he simply didn't know this album came out.  Regardless of the set's roots, one thing was certain, the album was unique in being the only soul release among the ten known releases on Tomorrow.  Moreover, with the possible exception of disco-tinged 'Suffering' and the ballad 'Love Is Just a Dream' most of these eleven tracks didn't sound like they'd been recorded in the mid-1970s.  Instead most of the album had a distinctive late-1960s/early-1970s vibe leading you to wonder if Tomorrow somehow acquired rights to earlier outtakes and miscellaneous materials.  

 

As on the earlier albums, the focus was clearly on lead singer Brenda Reid.  In my book Reid's simply one of soul's forgotten talents.  Her performances on these songs was impeccable, showcasing a range and depth you'd associate with biggies like Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples, and even Tina Turner (if the latter surprises you check out her performance on 'Lover's Question').  As much credit as Brenda deserved, an even bigger surprise came in the form of Herb's  performances.  Rooney seldom handled lead vocals (in fact many references refer to The Exciters as a female group) so hearing his R&B-ish moves on 'Something On Your Mind' and his best Curtis Mayfield impersonation on Curse the Brother'' was a pleasant and enjoyable surprise.  

 

The end result was an album that was stylistically all over the map, including stabs at country-soul, Stax-moves, hardcore funk, pop, and even a disco-tinged dance number.  While that may not have sounded particularly promising, virtually everyone of these performances was worth hearing.

 

- Showcasing Brenda Reid's crystal clear voice, 'Living for Tomorrow' was a classic slice of old school school soul.  Great melody with to-die-for backing vocals.  Mavis Staples would have killed to get her hands on a song as good as this one.   rating: **** stars 

- A beautiful slow-boil ballad with a hook that drilled into you head, 'Moving Day' had tons of commercial potential and would have been a dandy single.   rating: **** stars   

- Anyone who didn't think The Exciters could deal with a funky number need only check out 'Daytime Friend, Nighttime Lover'.   Kicked along by a killer bass line and some wonderful scratch guitar that would have made Steve Cropper smile, this one effortlessly out-Staxed virtually anything that came out of Memphis.  A blazing slice of Southern soul.   rating: ***** stars   

- One of three lead vocals by Herb, 'Something On Your Mind' found the group turning in an excellent slice of horn-propelled blues.  Herb had a voice that was ideal for the genre - deep and rough, but still commercial enough to be enjoyable.   rating: *** stars 

- Another Herb vocal, the subject matter and Curtis Mayfield-styled lyric and feel gave 'Curse the Brother' an early-1970s vibe.  Simultaneously slinky and thought provoking, this was one of the album's standout performances.   rating: ***** stars 

- Side two's 'After the Party's Over' found the Brenda and company getting downright funky.  Complete with fuzz guitar and pounding rhythm section, Norman Whitfield would have been happy to be associated with this one.   rating: ***** stars 

- Loud, bright and a bit on the shrill side, 'Suffering' didn't sound like it came from the same sessions as the other material. With a disco edge, this one actually sounded like a mid-1970s recording.  Unlike the other efforts, this time out Brenda's vocals sounded forced and over-the-top.   rating: ** stars 

- In contrast, 'Reaching for the Very Best' sounded like something that might have been recorded in the mid-1960s.  Dated, but likeable.   rating: *** stars 

- The lone non-original, 'Lover's Question' offered up a pounding slice of rock - yeah rock !   Powered by some Duane Allman-styled slide guitar, this one sounded like something Delaney and Bonnie might have recorded.  Simply sizzling.  My nomination for Brenda's best performance.   rating: ***** stars 

- Another track that sounded like a mid-1970s session, 'Love Is Just a Dream' was a highly orchestrated big ballad with some nice jazzy guitar.  Pretty and a nice showcase for Brenda's powerful voice, but not particularly memorable.   rating: *** stars 

- With a distinctive Muscle Shoals vibe, 'Fun Fight' had a very attractive 'live' feel to it.  Propelled by a fantastic bass line, if you ever wondered whether a Queens, New York based outfit could handle a slice of Southern soul, go no further than this performance.  Dazzling.  rating: ***** stars 

 

Not the most coherent Exciters album, but in spite of that, this one's good from start to finish.  Lots of folks would probably be puzzled, or simply shake their heads in disagreement, but I'd put this one on my top-10 tax scam album releases list.  Yeah, it's that good.

 

"The Exciters" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Living for Tomorrow   (Herb Rooney) - 

2.) Moving Day   (Herb Rooney) - 

3.) Daytime Friend, Nighttime Lover   (Herb Rooney) - 

4.) Something On Your Mind   (Herb Rooney) - 

5.) Curse the Brother   (Herb Rooney) - 

 

(side 2)
1.) After the Party's Over   (Herb Rooney) - 

2.) Suffering   (Herb Rooney) - 

3.) Reaching for the Very Best   (Herb Rooney) - 

4.) Lover's Question

5.) Love Is Just a Dream   (Herb Rooney) - 

6.) Fun Fight   (Herb Rooney) - 

 

 


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