THE MANHATTANS: Forever By Your Side (Label: Vinyl Masterpiece)

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THE MANHATTANS: Forever By Your Side

Like many classic vocal harmony groups who found success in the 1970s, New Jersey quartet, The Manhattans, had their roots in doo-wop – and yet despite this, they were durable enough to adapt to the changing fads and fashions of the music business over the years and made credible records for three decades. By 1983, the group formed by Winfred ‘Blue’ Lovett in the early ’60s had survived the carnage of the disco deluge – which had destroyed the careers of a lot of soul groups – and were making their mark on a new generation of listeners with slick soul ballads. Led by the ultra-smooth voice of Gerald Alston – who in 1988 quit the group and enjoyed quite a successful solo career at Motown – The Manhattans experienced a productive tenure at Columbia Records. They’d joined the label in 1973 from the King subsidiary, Deluxe, and scored a clutch of Top 10 R&B singles, culminating with the crossover chart topper, ‘Kiss & Say Goodbye,’ in 1976. The group continued to experience further chart success in the 1980s with Columbia and in 1983 had a big R&B smash with ‘Crazy,’ which appeared on the album, ‘Forever By Your Side.’ That album is now available again via the Dutch company, Vinyl Masterpiece, on their PTG label, which specialises in ’80s reissues. Featuring some marvellous leads from the husky-voiced Alston and warm supporting harmonies from the rest of the guys, ‘Forever By Your Side’ demonstrates why the group was popular for so long – the sheer quality of their vocals and their collective ability to render romantic ballads in a warm, appealing way brings a soulful timelessness to their performances. The arrangements are contemporary for the time – there are synthesisers, Moog basses and drum machines present on some tracks – but everything is done in a subtle and wholly understated way that’s not out of kilter with the more traditional sound of the group’s polished harmonies. The single, ‘Crazy’ – an infectious uptempo dancer – is memorable (it was the group’s final Top 5 US R&B hit) but it doesn’t eclipse the other songs on the album. Another dance floor number, ‘Locked Up In Your Love,’ is a similarly strong side, but the album’s killer cut is a brilliant mid-tempo ballad, ‘Just The Lonely Talking Again,’ penned by that redoubtable poet laureate of heartbreak soul, Sam Dees. It’s the glittering centrepiece of an album that still sounds good 26 years after its creation. For more information go to

(CW) 4/5