The Vibrations


Band members                             Related acts

- Don Bradley - bass vocals ()

- Carver Bunkham - vocals (1955-)

- Carlton Fisher - lead and tenor vocals (1955-)

- Dave Govan - lead and bariton vocals (1955-)

- James Johnson - lead vocals (1955-)

- Ricky Owens (RIP 1996) - lead and tenor vocals

  (replaced Carver Bunkham) ()

   

 

 

- The Jayhawks (Carlton Fisher, Dave Govan and James Johnson)

- The Marathons

- The Six Teens (Ricky Owens)

- The Temptations (Richard Owens)

 

 


 

Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Shout!

Company: Okeh

Catalog: OKM-12111

Year: 1965

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: mono pressing, writing on the back side; white label DJ copy with playing instructions

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4292

Price: $40.00

Cost: $66.00

 

I originally picked this one up at a yard sale and put it back down 'cause I thought it looked like a slice of lounge act crap ...  Luckily I had second thoughts and reclaimed it just as someone else was about to grab it ...

 

Formed in Los Angeles in the mid-1950s, these guys apparently have a rather convoluted background. Carver Bunkham, Carl Fisher, Dave Govan and James Johnson discovered a mutual interest in music while attending Los Angeles' Jefferson High School.  Prior to their incarnation as The Vibrations they'd recorded as The Jayhawks and The Marathons. Over the next five years they became mainstays on the California soul club circuit.  They also garnered a reputation as a strong live act, which may have been the reason Columbia's Okeh subsidiary signed them to a recording contract in 1964.  1964 also found the group adopting a new name - The Vibrations.

 

Curiously, while packaged to give the impression it's a live set, most of 1965's "Shout!" isn't !!!  The flip side medley 'What'd I Say-Shout' sounded like a concert effort, but that was the exception.  Elsewhere the set serves as a "best of" effort compiling material from the group's first five Okeh singles.  Included were:

 

- 1964's 'Watusi Time' b/w 'Sloop Dance' (Okeh catalog number  7205)

- 1964's 'Keep On Keeping On' b/w 'Hello Happiness' (Okeh catalog number 7212)

- 1965's 'Ainīt Love That Why' b/w 'End Up Crying' (Okeh catalog number 7220)

- 1965's 'Talkin' Bout Love' b/w 'If You Only Knew' (Okey catalog number 7228)

- 1965's 'Misty' b/w 'Finding Out the Hard Way' (Okeh catalog number 7230)

 

Musically the set offers up a weird mixture of surprisingly good soul moves, coupled with occasional slices of ghastly MOR.  It's almost as if Okeh were trying to take a page out of the mid-1960s Berry Gordy Jr. marketing book and find a way to market the group to both soul and white audiences.  Needless to say, the group's strengths lay in soul numbers such as 'Talkin' 'Bout Love' and Watusi Time''.  Naturally, their MOR moves proved the bigger commercial draw - their dreadful cover of 'Misty' hitting top-100 pop and top-40 R&B.  

 

"Shout!" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Talkin' 'Bout Love - 2:11

2.) Misty - 3:16

3.) End Up Crying - 2:20

4.) Watusi Time - 2:18

5.) Ain't Love That Way - 2:12

6.) Finding Out The Hard Way - 2:05

(side 2)

1.) 

1.) Medley: What'd I Say-Shout - 

2.) Sloop Dance - 2:38

3.) Keep On Keeping On - 1:55

4.) Hello Happiness - 2:18

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Good Vibrations

Company: Guinness

Catalog: GNS 36045

Year: 1977

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: cut top right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5950

Price: $100.00

 

The Vibrations and producer/writer Bob Gallo had a working relationship that stretched back to the early 1970s when they were signed to Gallo's short-lived Mandala label.  While signed to Mandala they recorded a hard-to-find album - 1972's "Taking a New Step" and released a couple of instantly obscure 45s:

 

- 1972's 'Ain't No Greens In Harlem' b/w 'Wind Up Toy' (Mandala catalog number 45-2511)

- 1972's 'Man Overboard' b/w 'The Man' (Mandala catalog number 45-2513)

 

Mandala catalog number MLP 3006

 

The Vibrations called it quits in 1976, but the following year the infamous Guinness tax scam label released "Good Vibrations".  Produced by Louis Lofredo, the album was a straight re-release of the earlier Mandala set - the only difference being new (cheaper looking) cover art.  How did the album end up on being released on Guinness?  Who knows, though it wasn't the only LP do be reissued by a tax scam label.  My uneducated guess it that it was brought to Guinness by Bob Gallo.

 

Propelled by Carlton Fisher's lead vocals and writing skills (he was credited with writing or co-writing most of the eleven tracks), musically most of the album offered up a set of old school soul moves that should have had considerable appeal to their longstanding fans base.  While silky ballads like Wind Up Toy'' and 'Take a Step' and were quite good, there were a couple of surprises that made the album truly surprising and enjoyable.  One of those unexpected performances came in the form of a Southern rock cover tune - The Allman Brothers' 'Midnight Rider '.  There was also a couple of true funk numbers ('Ain't No Greens In Harlem' and 'Kazoo').  The funk numbers were a real change up, showcasing a side of the group never seen before.  Shame they weren't able to take advantage of those talents before they called it quits.

 

"Good Vibrations" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Wind Up Toy   (Carl Fisher) -    rating: **** stars

Penned by Fisher, 'Wind Up Toy' was a glorious slice of old school soul.  Great melody, wonderfully cheesy chorus, with some classic lead and harmony vocals made it a thorough pleasure to hear.  The song had previously been released as a Mandala label 'B' side.   

2.) Ain't No Greens In Harlem   (Carl Fisher) -    rating: **** stars

Opening up with some sizzling lead guitar and then launching into a hysterical proto-rap about trying to find fresh vegetables in Harlem, 'Ain't No Greens In Harlem' was roll-on-the-floor funny.  Who knew The Vibrations could get down and funky like this?  The Temptations didn't have anything on this performance!  As mentioned earlier, Gallo's Mandala label had previously released this one as a single.   

3.) Run for Your Lives   (Bob Gallo) -    rating: ** stars

One of three tracks written, or co-written by Bob Gallo, 'Run for Your Lives' offered up an unexpected pro-ecology lyric set to a country-flavored melody.  Very strange and easy to see why The Vibrations didn't sound all that comfortable on the song ...   

4.) Take a Step   (L. Bergio) -    rating: *** stars

'Take a Step' found the group returning to a more conventional soul group sound.  The result was a nice, slinky mid-tempo track with Carl Fisher turning in one of his better leads.  This one would have given better known early-1970s soul outfits like The Chi-Lites, or The Stylistics a real run for their money.  Nice horn charts too boot.   

5.) Midnight Rider   (Duane Allman) -    rating: **** stars

Completely unexpected, their cover of The Allman Brothers 'Midnight Rider' was simply killer. As much as I love the original, this cover might be even better.  The Vibrations simply let it all hang out on this one.  The song also sported a fantastic lead guitar break which would have made Duane Allman proud.   

6.) Kazoo   (Carl Fisher - Bob Gallo - Don Bradley - Dave Govan - Kames Johnson - Richard Owens) -  rating: *** stars

Wow, how to even begin to describe 'Kazoo' ...  With African rhythms and top-of-their-lungs chanting, imagine The Vibrations trying to morph into an Anglo-African band like Osibisa.  Unlike anything else in The Vibrations catalog and quite infectious.    

 

(side 2)

1.) Man Overboard   (Carl Fisher) -    rating: *** stars

'Man Overboard' was a really good, upbeat soul number.  Great hook and quite commercial, but Fisher's lead vocal was simply horrible - out of tune and strained, he sounded like he was going to stroke out any second.   

2.) The Man   (Carl Fisher) -    rating: **** stars

Another unexpected slice of funk, 'The Man' actually sounded like a slice of Norman Whitfield psych-soul.  Complete with driving beat and squealing lead guitar, it was easy to imagine this one of a mid-1970s Temptations album (funny enough when the group briefly split in 1971 Richard Owens ended up with The Temptations, though he was canned within a matter of months for reportedly flubbing lyrics at a concert performance).  One of my favorite performances on the album.   

3.) Silver Dollar   (Carl Fisher) -    rating: **** stars

Kicked along by a stunning bass pattern and sporting a social commentary lyric, 'Silver Dollar' was literally a proto-rap number.  A song I keep coming back to ...   

4.) Whiskey Man   (Carl Fisher) -    rating: **** stars

Probably my favorite old school performance on the album, 'Whiskey Man' had everything you look for in a song; great melody, heartbreaking lyric, nice harmony vocals.  Fantastic song.  

5.) Bolder, Green & Jones   (Carl Fisher - Bob Gallo) -   rating: **** stars

The album's strangest offering was left for last. Apparently intended as an anti-war statement, 'Bolder, Green & Jones' opening up with some pretty multi-part vocals, before taking on a dark, disturbing twist complete with chaotic orchestration.  From there it moved into a brief martial segment complete with a spoken word segment that briefly described the apparently dead principals.  Complete with a multitude of sound effects including rain, taps, martial drumming, angelic chorus, and acid-tinged background music, it made for a pretty cool way to end the album.  Again, not exactly what you would have expected to hear from these guys.  

 

All told this stood as one of the better soul albums released on a tax scam label and probably the best one to see two tax scam issues - the 1972 original on Mandala and the 1977 release of Guinness.  Shame it didn't attract much attention either time around.

 

 

 

 

SRB 3/2010

 

 

 

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