The Exciters

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)  

- 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)  

- Skip McPhee -- vocals

- Ronnie Pace -- vocals

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

- Brenda Reid -- vocals


  line up 5 (1988-91)  

- Herb Rooney (RIP) -- vocals, keyboards

- Lillian Walker -- vocals 


  line up 6 (2011 - present)






- 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:  The Exciters

Company: Roulette

Catalog: R-25326

Country/State: Jamaica, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 30974

Price: $80.00


After four years recording for United Artists under the tutelage of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, 1965 saw The Exciters sign a deal with Roulette Records.  Hindsight being 20/20, I'm guessing it was one of the biggest mistakes in their career.




Their first release for the label was a slightly altered remake of  Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers' 'I Want You To Be My Girl.':


- 1964's 'I Want You To Be My Boy' b/w 'Tonight Tonight' (Roulette catalog R-1041)  






The 45 just crept into the pop top-100 (# 98), but the lack of widespread success didn't stop Roulette from financing an Exciters album - "The Exciters".   Produced by Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, the liner notes may have fawned over Herb Rooney, but the collection's musical focus was firmly on lead singer Brenda Reid.  Gifted with one of soul's most impressive, if overlooked voices, Reid could handle pretty much anything that came her way.  The result was an album with a sound that was planted in early-'60s soul ballads, but with some surprises embedded along the way.   The breezy up-tempo  'Talkin' Bout My Baby' and 'Something To Shout About' both sported nice Motown influences.  'Are You Satisfied' showcased a surprisingly empowering lyric and would have made a dandy single. 'Run Mascera' had one of the goofiest titles and lyrics you've heard.  Elsewhere the album was interesting for the number of "sound-alike" performances.  Given 'There They Go' bore an uncanny resemblance to Them's 'Into the Night', writer Bert Berns was seemingly guilty of copying himself.  Elsewhere 'Something To Shout About' was a straight copy of Johnny Otis' "Willie and the Hand Jive'.  Certainly not a classic soul collection, but consistent and with the exception of the groaner 'My Father', never less than enjoyable.



"The Exciters" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) I Want You To Be My Boy   (Morris Levy) - 2:20   rating: *** stars

As mentioned above, 'I Want You To Be My Boy' was a remake of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers' 'I Want You To Be My Girl.'  Even though the lyrics were only slightly modified, the original George Goldner and Richard Barrett writing credits were ditched in favor of a credit to the infamous Morris Levy. Levy owned the Roulette label, so updated credit probably should not have surprised anyone.  While I've always liked the Lymon original, powered by Brenda Reid's blistering lead vocal, The Exciters' version upped the voltage and was easily the better of the two songs.   

2.) That's How Love Starts   (Ron Miller - Lee Porter) - 2:30  rating: **** stars

With the possible exceptions of Darlene Love and Mavis Staples, Brenda Reid may have been blessed with '60s soul's most powerful voice.  The woman could literally shred any song she took on.  Doubt those comments - then listen to the ballad 'That's How Love Starts'.  The song may have been a bit too Burt Bachrach and Hal David supper clubish, but Reid just tore it up.

3.) Tonight, Tonight   (Sawyer - Levinson) - 2:12   rating: *** stars

With a bouncy melody and nice vocal play between Reid and the other ladies, it was a shame 'Tonight, Tonight' was relegated to the flip side of the 'I Want To Be My Boy' single.

3.) Are You Satisfied   (Martin - Northern - Herb Rooney) - 2:35  rating: **** stars

With a pounding martial beat and some surprisingly empowering lyrics, 'Are You Satisfied' was another track that was shamefully lost to "B" side status.  Only complaint on this one stemmed from producers Hugo and Luigi slapping way too many strings on the track.  They should have just allowed Reid and company to attack the song without a heavy arrangement.

4.) There They Go  (Bert Berns) - 2:35   rating: *** stars

One of the more blatant rip-offs I've come across, it was hard to miss the comparison with Van Morrison and Them's 'Into the Night'.   




Roulette tapped the song as a promotional single, but seemingly never released it as a stock copy.


- 'There They Go' b/w 'I Knew You Would' (Roulette catalog R-4632)






5.) Run Mascara  (Bert Berns) - 2:23   rating: *** stars


'Run Mascera' wasn't a particularly strong track, but it was interesting as one of the rare Exicters performances where you could actually hear Herb Rooney's vocals.  Yeah, he was still in the background, but you could clearly hear him in the mix.      The song also served as another Exciter's single: 


- 1965's 'Run Mascera' b/w 'My Father' (Roulette catalog number R-4615)





(side 2)

1.) Talkin' Bout My Baby   (Ron Miller - Lee Porter) - 2:00  rating: **** stars

Nice early-Motown uptempo vibe to this one.  Once again, the give and take between Reid and  Carol Johnson and Lillian Walker was superb.  

2.) I Knew You Would  (Bert Berns) - 2:27  rating: **** stars

Kicked along by some slinky guitar licks (which have always reminded me of Steve Cropper's unique sound), the breezy 'I Knew You Would' was one of my favorite performances.

3.) Just Not Ready   (Brenda Reid - Herb Rooney - Ron Pope) - 2:15  rating: **** stars

To my ears the album's most commercial and radio-ready performance, 'Just Not Ready' had a great melody; a driving lead from Reid, and great backing vocals.  Curiously the tune was tapped as the first single, though it was seemingly only released as a promotional 45:




- 1965's 'Just Not Ready' b/w 'Are You Satisfied' (Roulette catalog number R-4594)








4.) My Father   (Herb Rooney - Ron Pope) - 2:50   rating: ** stars

With a thoroughly sappy lyric and one of Reid's rare over-sung performances, 'My Father' was one of the album's few missteps.   Other than the cha-cha beat and the catchy backing chorus, this one was completely forgettable. 

5.) Something To Shout About   (Steve Duboff - Gerry Robinson) - 2:26   rating: *** stars

'Something To Shout About' is another derivative tune.  In this case the melody seemed to have been lifted from Johnny Otis' 'Willie and the Hand Jive.  Credited as the writers, Steve Duboff and Gerry Robinson were lucky they did get hit with a copywrite suit.




Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Caviar and Chitlins

Company: RCA

Catalog: LSP-4211

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:






1968's 'Take One Step (I'll Take Two)' b/w 'If You Want My Love' (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 again 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.


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

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

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.  The wordplay was hysterical.  My only complaint was the song faded out too early.   Easy to see why RCA tapped it as a leadoff single.  

- 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) 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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








Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Black Beauy

Company: Today

Catalog: TLP 1001

Country/State: Jamaica, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6307

Price: $80.00





"Black Beauty" track listing:
(side 1)



(side 2)


1002 The Exciters Life Love & Peace
If you're a fan of Ruby Andrews then check the uptempo soul tune "Soul sister Annie". "Stay right here this morning" and the more southern style "I can't give in" are great too. Cover is a nice VG+ with light ring wear but strong and intact seams. Record has a few light marks but nothing major at all and plays excellent.
   play soundclip  


Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  The Exciters

Company: Tomorrow

Catalog: TVI-141

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.  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) -    rating: **** stars 

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.

2.) Moving Day   (Herb Rooney) -    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.     

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

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

5.) Curse the Brother   (Herb Rooney) -    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.  


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

2.) Suffering   (Herb Rooney) -    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.    

3.) Reaching for the Very Best   (Herb Rooney) -    rating: *** stars 

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

4.) Lover's Question   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.   

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

6.) Fun Fight   (Herb Rooney) -    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.