Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Ravens

Artist: The Ravens
LP: The Ravens
Song: "Love Is the Thing"
[ listen ]
Song: "Don't Mention My Name"
[ listen ]
Song: "Come a Little Bit Closer"
[ listen ]

I took the day off work last Friday and drove down to Tacoma where I enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Marcia's Silver Spoon Cafe before going to see the incredible HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire In American Portraiture exhibit currently on display at the Tacoma Art Museum. My favorite portrait was the one made of candies ("untitled" by Felix Gonzalez-Torres), but the entire show provides a fascinating historical overview of the lives and works of artists and public figures who challenged gender and sexual norms in American society throughout the 20th century. If you're gonna' be anywhere near Tacoma between now and June 10th, you simply must go. I wasn't about to leave Tacoma without visiting a few record stores first; this collection of recordings from 1952-1954 by The Ravens is one of the wonderful things I found at Hi-Voltage Records. Formed in 1945 (or maybe 1946, it depends) by Harlem waiters Jimmy Ricks and Warren Stuttles, The Ravens had a string of hits in the late '40s and early '50s, starting an avalanche of R&B copycat groups also named after birds, including The Orioles, The Swallows, The Crows, The Swans, and The Wrens. The mellow bass voice of Jimmy Ricks (featured on "Love Is the Thing") and Joe Van Lon's glorious tenor (showcased on "Don't Mention My Name") offer a lovely variety on each of The Ravens' records, with the two lead singers backed here by Jimmy Stewart (not THAT Jimmy Stewart) and Warren Stuttles. I've also included "Come a Little Bit Closer" which has The Ravens bobbing along like a quartet of robins. You can read about The Ravens' National label recordings on the JazzWax website here, and find lots of terrific information about the history and lineup changes of the group on the Vocal Group Hall of Fame website here. The Ravens were inducted there in 1998, and they're my favorite musical discovery so far this year!

[ The Ravens ]

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