THE EBONYS: Forever – Philly Soul Gems (Label: Shout)

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THE EBONYS: Forever - Philly Soul Gems

The Ebonys were a four piece vocal group (three guys, one gal) from Camden, New Jersey. In 1971 they were signed to Gamble and Huff’s fledgling Philadelphia International label. My guess is that they were contracted because in lead baritone, James Tuten, the Philly entrepreneurs thought they’d found a vocalist who could match the man they’d long considered the best in the business – Marvin Junior of the Dells. Together the teams set to work, and the Ebonys recorded a smattering of singles and a album for the new label – and the bulk of those tracks is collected here on this excellent Shout 13 tracker. The obvious highlights of the set are the two songs that the group will always be associated with – the mighty ‘It’s Forever’ and the even mightier ‘You’re The Reason Why’. Both are sensational items and every home should have copies. The searing soul of both recordings owes more than a little to the Dells – but that’s no bad thing is it? Elsewhere ‘Hook Up And Get Down’, ‘Nation Time’ and ‘Sexy Ways’ are big set-piece Philly items – the kind that the O’Jays carried off with such aplomb while ‘I’ll Try’ is another lovely ballad. The group also have a stab at the old inspirational chestnut ‘I Believe’ and they carry it off superbly. The crisp ‘Do You Like The Way I Love You’ is another great cut and worth serious investigation by the modern soul crew. But in all seriousness, soulsters (of all persuasions) will find loads to connect with here. Inexplicably, the Ebonys never achieved huge or consistent success and in 1974 they were dropped by PIR. (By then, Gamble and Huff had Teddy P to work with, of course). The Ebonys went on to record for Buddah and Venture and two teams of Ebonys still tour – one issuing an album on Swing City in 2003, but they have never come close to matching the absolute majesty of ‘It’s Forever’ and ‘You’re The Reason Why’.
(BB) 4/5