RAMSEY LEWIS: The Movie Album/Dancing In The Street (BGO)

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Ramsey Lewis is arguably black music’s most prolific artist. He’s released well over 80 albums … and he’s still working, so watch out for more! Quantity, though, doesn’t define an artist’s worth. Quality is the barometer … and in terms of real quality, Lewis’ career high point was his tenure at the Chess label and the two wonderful albums on this new “twofer” come from that very period. Both ‘The Movie Album ‘and ‘Dancing In The Street’ were recorded and released in 1967 and, interestingly, they show the two distinct styles which Lewis developed at the time.

The 11 track ‘Movie’ LP is smooth and lushly orchestrated with the great Richard Evans handling the arrangements and Esmond Edwards at the production desk. The album is, of course, a selection of movie tunes and between them the team select generally less well known items to work on. They include the theme from ‘The Pawnbroker’ and a great oriental flavoured ‘China Gate’ which was featured in the 1957 film ‘Around The World In Eighty Days’. There’s also a take on ‘From Russia With Love’ and ‘The Sandpiper’ theme, ‘The Shadow Of Your Smile’. The set also offers one Richard Evans original – the swinging and appropriately titled ‘Saturday Night After The Movies’.

The eight tracks that make up the ‘Dancing In The Street’ LP are more in the then accepted Ramsey Lewis ‘live’ style… the approach that had made things like ‘The In Crowd’ and ‘Hang On Sloopy’ into big hits. The Motown title tune is the obvious stand out but there are also great versions of ‘Quiet Nights’ and ‘What Now My Love’. Throughout, Lewis is supported by his able, then new sidemen –Maurice White (drums) and Cleveland Eaton (bass) who’d the previous year replaced Eldee Young and Red Holt. The new boys made the transition smooth… with no appreciable difference to the overall, distinctive Ramsey Lewis signature sound… which now sounds even better in this new, digitally re-mastered format.

(BB) 4/5