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Friday, June 10, 2016

(the) Stylistics - s/t & Round 2

Name: (the) Stylistics
Album: s/t* & Round 2~
Years: 1971*, 1972~
Style: R&B, Soul
Similar Bands: Spinners, Harold Melvin & Blue Notes, Bee Gees, Del-Fonics, Al Green, O'Jays, Four Tops
One Word Review: Delicate Pre-Disco Ballad Scores
Based Out Of: Philadelphia, PA
Label: AVCO
 s/t - Cover & Record
s/t - Back & Record

Round 2 - Cover & Record

Round 2 - Back & Record
s/t (1971)*

  1. Stop, Look Listen (to your heart) - 2:54
  2. Point of No Return 2:45
  3. Betcha By Golly Wow 3:47
  4. Country Living 2:57
  5. You're A Big Girl Now 3:14 /
  6. You Are Everything 2:55
  7. People Make the World Go Round 6:26
  8. Ebony Eyes 2:21
  9. If I Love You 2:05

Round 2 (1972)~
  1. I'm Stone In Love With You 3:19
  2. If You Don't Watch Out 2:34
  3. You & Me 2:43
  4. It's Too Late 4:37
  5. Children of the Night 7:00 /
  6. You'll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) 3:38
  7. Break Up to Make Up 4:00
  8. Peek-A-Boo 2:53
  9. You're Right as Rain 3:46
  10. Pieces 3:09

Album Rating (1-10):*7.0

Members & Other Bands:
Thom Bell - Produced, Conducted, Arranger*
Russell Thompkins Jr - Lead Vox*~ (Monarchs, Russel Thompkins Jr & The New Stylistics)
Airrion Love - Vox*~ (Monarchs)
James Smith - Vox*~ (Monarchs)
Herb Murrell - Vox*~ (The Percussions)
James Dunn - Vox*~ (The Percussions)
Linda Creed - Vox*~ (Spinners, Dusty Springfield, Phyllis Hyman)
Barbara Ingram - Vox*~ (The Sweethearts of Sigma, The Philadelphia Angels, The Sweeties, The Sweethearts, Ingram Kingdom...many more as back up)
Norman Harris - Guitar*~(MFSB, Salsoul Orchestra, and producer to many others)
Roland Chambers - Guitar*~
Ronnie Baker - Bass*~ (The Trammps)
Earl Young - Drums*~(The Trammps, Harold Melvin & Blue Notes, Ten City, MFSB, Salsoul Orchestra and many others in the Gamble & Huff era)
Larry Washington - Congas*~
Vince Montana - Percussion*~ (MFSB, Salsoul Orchestra, many, many more, including the Pet Shop Boys)
Lenny Pakula - Piano, Organ*~
Joe DeAngelis - French Horn*~
Stephanie Fauber - French Horn*~
Robert Martin - French Horn*~
Rocco Bene - Trumpet*~
Bobby Hartzell - Trumpet*~
Jack Faith - Alto Sax, Flute*~
George Shaw - Flute*~
Vincent Forchetti - Trombone*~
Bob Moore - Trombone*~
Richard Genevese - Trombone*~
Don Renaldo - Strings*~
Tony Sinagogo - Strings*~
Albet Berone - Strings*~
Rudy Malzia - Strings*~
Alngelo Pretrella - Strings*~
Romeo Di Stefano - Strings*~
Charles Apollonia - Strings*~
Davis Barnett - Strings*~
Richard Jones - Strings*~
Hershel Wise - Strings*~
Mary Gale - Harp*~
Fredric Cohen - Oboe*~

Umknown-ness: I have heard of them, but never associated anything to them. I'm pretty confident in  assuming that it is going to be Philly-soul/R&B, since there are hints at that all over the back covers. I'm not sure the order or when I got these records, but I like the huge contrast in artistic style between their breezy, psychedelic self titled cover and the socially & politically charged Round 2 only a year later.

Album Reviews: The Stylistics were one of the early 70’s bands that fit in nicely with the Philly sound, and were one of the most productive and charting bands. The band had 12 top-ten US R&B singles in a row, and a bevy of famous backing help made these first two albums sell very well, and offered a distinguished resume of Gamble & Huff contributing and studio artists. There is even a variation of the Stylistics still playing and touring today (2016). They were inducted into the Vocal Group HOF in 2004. And the was more than once where I swear I was about to listen to the Four Tops “Ain’t No Women Like the One I’ve Got.”

“Stop, Look Listen (to Your Heart)” was a single. It is light and airy, similar to early Bee Gees, with lots of vocal harmonies popping up here and there. This melody is slow and crawling. The soaring falsetto vocals offer a tender mood.
“Point of No Return” picks up the bubblegum pop beat a little more, and is a more fun song. It has more of a doo-wop feel than the adult contemporary smooth R&B. The Falsetto vocals lend themselves to early disco sound, but that’s easy to say, knowing what was to come next.
“Betcha By Golly Wow” was a single. It slows the tempo down again, but with confidence. Swirls of strings and woodwinds create a magical soundscape.
“Country Living” starts out sounding like it could be a Belle & Sebastian song. The only difference is the vocals, but I could easily hear Stuart’s twee vocals fill in for the falsetto. It is a steady, jangly tempod song with some punchy vocals punctuated with strings bursting in the background and following in melody. It features a repetitive backing vocal that could also be taken advantage of it were it a B&S song.
“You're A Big Girl Now” was a single and regional hit on Sebring records before they were picked up by AVCO. The song has a little of a Jamaican vibe, and is not immediately led by Thompkin’s vocals, although he does take over for the verses. There is a breakdown that features spoken word, deep vocals talking to the presumptive daughter, echoed by the falsetto vocals, almost like he’s reading a letter in a memory.

“You Are Everything” was a single. I recognize this song. It is a slow and steady ballad, with double layered harmonic vocals that break away from each other to take occasional turns. There are swirling ambient effects, and the term lush is very fitting for the accompanying music.
“People Make the World Go Round” was rerecorded by Mac Dorsey and used in Spike Lee’s Crooklyn. It has a slow, delicate vibe, and is even a little sinister, in a James Bond way. It feels like a slower version of the Four Tops’ “Ain’t No Women Like the One I’ve Got.” The song is unnecessarily lengthy, where it repeats the same vibes hook over and over with slight flute and other percussive effects varying underneath.
“Ebony Eyes” is a nice little basic tune. It features a fun, rolling vocal melody, and simple music accompaniment.
“If I Love You” is much grander, with a whole orchestra of pulsing effects, and pre-disco film scoring. The sentiment is upbeat and fun. The vocals sore over the precise score, supported mostly by strings when they do.

“I'm Stone In Love With You” opens with a quiet, early morning folky Disney cartoon melody with a burgeoning energy. The song progresses methodically, but delicately.
“If You Don't Watch Out” has a nice side to side doo-wop pop melody and tempo. It is polite and non-threatening, but a very catchy beat, maybe a bit like the Sesame Street theme.
“You & Me” is a little darker, but still, nothing threatening. The chorus loops back on itself, supported by strings, is more pre-disco in style, like a less coked-up hustle.
“It's Too Late” is a cover of the Carol King song, but I honestly did not recognize it until the chorus hit. It was also covered in 1972 by Billy Paul & The Isley Brothers. This version begins with a bass hook and vibes, followed by horns, which sounds like it could set up the scene for a gritty 70’s cop drama. The song levels out, and loses the edge as the vocals are added and on display.
“Children of the Night” begins with children’s vocals at play in the distance. The ballad is slow and thoughtful. It is cautious, adding a little darkness into the melody. The song wanders as it hits the instrumental section for the last two minutes, featuring a guitar solo accompanied by some la-la-la-la’s; all done precisely.

“You'll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)” picks up with the 70’s love boat vibe of strings and congas. The vocals are light and airy here, and build up to a plateau in the chorus.
“Break Up to Make Up” was a single. It brings us back to the slow ¾ dance ballad. This song is at least famous enough for me to recognize too. It is sentimental and reflective.
“Peek-A-Boo” enters with a drum fill, and has a slightly more upbeat tempo than BU2MU, but it still falls on the side of a reflective slow dance, and a little Four Tops.
“You're Right as Rain” begins with piano only. It feels like a reprise of some of their other songs fit together. Slow, ballady and reflective make up the familiar refrain.
“Pieces” ends the album on a bit of a fun, R&B tone, with more proto-disco, thanks to the vocal melody and string accompaniment. It is steady paced, not rampant and swirling, and ends as a fade out.

Stand Out Track* Country Living
~If You Don't Watch Out


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