ARCHIE BELL and the DRELLS: Let’s Groove (bbr)

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Despite a slew of hits through the 60s and 70s, Archie Bell and the Drells have never been considered soul major leaguers. Maybe this new 2CD, 44 track career retrospective from bbr will force a reconsideration as those with short and selective memories get to re-hear some of the great good-time soul that the Texan group crafted.

The boys’ first label was Ovide Records where they recorded the single ‘Dog Eat Dog’ coupled with ‘Tighten Up’. The catchy dancer was licensed to Atlantic who flipped the disc, promoting the even catchier ‘Tighten Up’ which went on to top the pop and soul charts in 1968. To keep the momentum, Atlantic execs teamed Archie and his band with up and coming, hotshot producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff … the hits continued.

After Atlantic/Ovide the group switched to Glade Records before rejoining Kenny and Leon at Philly International Records and again the pairing brought artistic and commercial success.

This new collection offers all the hits, of course, but there’s plenty to interest serious soul collectors, including some of their lesser known Atlantic tracks. These include versions of Hayes and Porter’s ‘Wrap It Up’ and Philip Mitchell’s lovely ‘I Just Want To Fall In Love’. You also get the Glade recordings, most of them Philip Mitchell songs with Mitchell and others standing in for the Drells. Those tunes go to prove that it just wasn’t Gamble and Huff who could bring out the best in Archie Bell’s remarkable soul voice. The Glade materail  is every bit as good as ‘Tighten Up’, ‘Showdown’, ‘Soul City Walk’ and all the other hits… enjoy ’em all again and maybe you might be tempted to move Archie and the Drells up the soul pecking order!

(BB) 4/5