Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1962-69)
- Veronica "Roni" Brown -- vocals
- Terry Flippen (aka Terry Jones, aka Terry Flippen Gonzalez) --
- Anita Ross (aka Anita Ross Brooks)-- vocals
- Sheila Ross (aka Sheila Anthony, aka Sheila Anthony-Burnette) --
- Sheila Anthony (solo efforts)
Title: The Elegant Sound of the Royalettes
Country/State: Baltimore, Maryland
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: mono pressing; small punch hoe bottom left corner
Catalog ID: 1
They're all but forgotten today, but Baltimore's The Royalettes had a couple of things going for them.
- I live in Northern Virginia, so they qualify as a "local" group.
- Fronted by Sheila Ross, they had all the vocal talents needed to take on far better known competitors
- Producer and writer Teddy Randazzo offered up a collection of material that should easily appeal to any music fan who enjoys a great MOR melody (think along the lines of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's classic 1960s hits).
There's quite a bit of biographical information out there on the group, but here are the highlights.
Sisters Anita and Sheila Ross were raised in West Baltimore. In high school they decided to form their own group, recruiting cousin Veronica "Roni" Brown and friend Terry Jones. Taking their name from Baltimore's famed Royal Theater, the quartet began performing as The Royalettes. The group's initial break came when their cover of The Chantels' 'He's Gone' won a talent show sponsored by Baltimore's Buddy Dean Show. The win resulted in a recording contract with the Philadelphia-based Chancellor label and the release of their 1962 debut 45:
- 1962's 'No Big Thing' b/w 'Yesterday's Lovers' (Chancellor catalog number 45 C-1133)
Gaining considerable national exposure with appearances on American Bandstand, Shindig, and Where the Action Is, over the next two years they recorded two follow-on singles:
- 1963's 'Blue Summer' b/w 'Willie the Wolf' (Chancellor catalog number 45 C-1140) # 122 pop
- 1964's 'There He Goes' b/w 'Come To Me' (Warner Brothers catalog number 5439)
The group's sophomore album found them continuing their partnership with producer/writer Teddy Randazzo. For better or worse, 1966's "The Elegant Royalettes" found Randazzo and company all but abandoning the group's earlier doo-wop and soul roots in favor of a highly orchestrated collection of adult contemporary ballads. Powered by Sheila Ross' powerful, high-pitched voice, these sixteen tracks have always reminded me of a mixture of Bacharach-David material written for the likes of Dionne Warwick, Little Anthony and the Imperials (an act that was also produced by Randazzo), Motown when they were trying to appeal to middle class white American audiences, with a little bit of early Philly International thrown in the mix. Featuring an unheard of sixteen tunes, the collection was certainly uneven and the 100% ballad line-up eventually wore you down, wishing they'd give an up-tempo tune a shot. Still, when these ladies were given strong material and Randazzo gave them a little breathing space in his heavy handed arrangements, the results could be stunning. 'Love without an End', the single 'It's a Big Mistake', and 'I Don't Want To Be the One' was all first-rate ballads that should have gotten airplay. With a more varied repertoire, these ladies could have been massive stars.
Elegant Sound of the Royalettes" track listing:
1.) Baby Are You Putting Me On (Teddy Randazzo - Bob Weinstein) - 3:06 rating: *** stars
Admittedly, Ross sounded a touch uncomfortable given the song's extremely high vocal range, but the adult contemporary arrangement (complete with abrupt time changes, horns and tympani drums) was simply gorgeous.
2.) Love without an End (Teddy Randazzo - Bob Weinstein) - 2:57 rating: **** stars
Sweet, if over-orchestrated ballad that reflected Ross singing in her normal, lower range. Anyone who missed the Little Anthony an the Imperials comparison should check out this one.
3.) Gettin' Through To Me (Teddy Randazzo - Bob Weinstein) - 2:34 rating: *** stars
There's a thin line between orchestrated pop and middle brown MOR. 'Gettin' Through To Me' came awfully close to the latter, but the chorus ultimately saved this one.
4) It's a Big Mistake (Tony May - Teddy Randazzo - Bob Weinstein) - 2:57 rating: **** stars
'It's a Big Mistake' was somewhat atypical given the opening segment showed off the group's tougher, soul sound. That edge didn't last with Randazzo's heavy orchestration quickly kicking in turning the song into something resembling a Broadway tune. Shame. One of the album's strongest performances, the song was tapped as the album's leadoff single:
- 1966's 'It's a Big Mistake' b/w 'It's Better Not To Know' (MGM catalog number K-13507)
5.) Don't Throw Me Away (Teddy Randazzo - Lou Stallman -Bob Weinstein) - 2:28 rating: * star
Hyper-sensitive, Dionne Warwick-styled supper club soul. Yech.
6.) Lonely Girl (Teddy Randazzo - Lou Stallman - Bob Weinstein) - 2:06 rating: *** stars
The pop-oriented 'Lonely Girl' again recalled the Bacharach-David sound, with Sheila and company trotting out their best Dionne Warwick impersonations. Nice, but clearly derivative.
7.) I Don't Want To Be the One (Teddy Randazzo - Lou Stallman - Bob Weinstein) - 2:12 rating: **** stars
To my ears 'I Don't Want To Be the One' should have been the single. Admittedly it probably sounded dated even in 1966, but it had a great melody, one of those heartbreak, classic old school lyrics, and dynamite vocal arrangement.
9.) Shangri-La (Matty Malneck - Robert Maxwell -Carl Sigman) - 2:34 rating: ** stars
One of two songs on the album that were not written by Randazzo, 'Shangri-La' was another track that strayed too far into MOR territory. Sappy and instantly forgettable, this was another performance where Ross' high pitched and fragile delivery recalled Jerome Anthony Gourdine (Little Anthony).
1.) It's Better Not To Know (Teddy Randazzo - Victoria Pike) - 2:51 rating: **** stars
'It's Better Not To Know' was another overblown ballad that in theory I should have detested. That said, the underlying melody was in the best Bacharach-David school and the refrain was pure ear candy.
2.) Think Before You Act (Teddy Randazzo - Lou Stallman - Bob Weinstein) - 2:25 rating: *** stars
Tony Orlando released 'Think Before You Act' as a 1965 single for ATCO. Interestingly the arrangement used for The Royalettes sounded virtually identical to Orlando's tune, as did the female backing vocals.
3.) Let Me Know When It's Over (Teddy Randazzo - Bob Weinstein) - 2:14 rating: ** stars
Another one that I found too MOR-ish for my own taste.
4.) Forever More (Teddy Randazzo) - 3:13 rating: *** stars
'Forever More' fell squarely in the Dionne Warwick school of MOR-pop. Once again you briefly got to hear Sheila singing in a lower, more comfortable key. Shame Randazzo didn't let her sing in that lower register more often.
5.) The Rest of My Life (Teddy Randazzo) - 2:31 rating: *** stars
Okay, this one took a while to grow on me. Not my choice for one of the strongest performances, but it has staying power.
6.) Can't Stop Running Away (Teddy Randazzo - Bob Weinstein) - 3:02 rating: ** stars
Imagine The Supremes backing Dionne Warwick at The Copa and you'll know what to expect on this ballad.
7.) An Affair To Remember (Our Love Affair) (Harold Adamson - Leo McCarey - Harry Warren) - 2:19) rating: ** stars
Geez, why would they force these ladies to record this mid-'50s chestnut? Bruce Allen and the Jimmy Carroll Orchestra originally released it as a 1957 single on Bull Records Their cover was certain better than the original, but just too sappy ... MGM tapped it as a promo single:
- 1966's 'An Affair To Remember (Our Love Affair)' b/w 'I Don't Want To Be the One' (MGM catalog number K-13544)
Over the next year the group released two non-LP singles before being dropped by MGM.
- 1966's 'When Summer's Gone' b/w 'Love Without An End' (MGM catalog number K-13588)
- 1966's 'Take My Love (And Hide It From My Heart' b/w '(He Is) My Man' (MGM catalog number K-13627)
They continued on through 1969, releasing an instantly obscure promotional single for Roulette. Naturally their cover of Barbara banks' 'River of Tears' was an upbeat, soul-infused dance tune:
- 1967's 'River of Tears' b/w 'Something Special' (Roulette catalog number R-4768)
And with that they four members called it quits. Sheila released a pair of solo 45s under the name Sheila Anthony and did some work as a backup singer. Interesting footnote, Sheila also enjoyed some fame as a Playboy Bunny. I even found a photo of her Bunny career.
The group reunited for a one-short performance at Baltimore's 2003 All Star Classic Reunion.
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