Little Anthony & the Imperials
The Very Best of Little Anthony & the Imperials
United Artists 382
Released when this group’s time together was coming to an end, this 1975 reissue (originally released with the same songs but different sleeve in 1974) features a cover photo that’s perhaps unrepresentative–obviously showing the group at the time of this anthology rather than the times of these recordings–but the “Very Best” title is fitting. This features a decade of hits from this seminal group, thankfully presented in chronological order, from 1958’s “Tears on My Pillow” to 1969’s “Out of Sight, Out of Mind,” showing how this group was able to move from doo-wop to soul while in many ways maintaining their signature sound, amazingly keeping the hits and quality through changing times, without needing to completely reinvent themselves or give in to every fad or cover hits by the so-called Fab Four.
This anthology helps reveal the importance of this group. These young men from Brooklyn left the rocking and machismo bragging for others and were able to find long-term crossover success without losing the black audience, in fact while finding even more success on the R&B charts. All this, along with the unique vocal delivery had a huge effect on American music. When listening to this anthology from start to finish, it becomes clear that these songs serve as a bridge from the doo-wop of the 1950s to the East-coast soul of the late 60s and early 70s. While the sleeve photo might have been a bit misleading, in some ways it fits: these cats deserved to be looking early-70s cool on the cover of this anthology because these songs helped create what made early-70s soul so memorable.
Listeners can find countless anthologies of this group, but other than perhaps the packaging, this one serves it up right. Others are too comprehensive, and some focus too much on one era. While this isn’t the place to end with this group, it serves as a perfect place to begin.
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