THE METROS: Sweetest One (Label: Dusty Groove)

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THE METROS: Sweetest One

Chicago’s Dusty Groove Records is not just one of the planet’s coolest collectors’ record stores, it also licenses and reissues eminently collectable and often obscure albums – and this new release merits both those adjectives. The Metros were a 60s five piece Detroit harmony group (though the cover picture only shows four!) who for reasons never explained slipped the clutches of Berry Gordy. Nevertheless their reputation was such that they were signed to RCA who like most majors were trying (and generally failing) to recreate the then all-conquering Motown sound. To that end RCA employed a stellar production crew comprising ex-Motown staffers – Joe Hunter, Jack Ashford, Herbie Williams, and Mike Terry. Known collectively as “Pied Piper”, that team set to work with the Metros in RCA’s Chicago studios and the outcome was this single album issued in 1967 to little or no acclaim. Pundits have tried to explain why – usually citing the fact that the Metros’ sound was too gritty to be accepted by the white market that had latched onto Motown, while the black market might have found the sound too light. The Metros’ sound is indeed gritty. If comparisons are to be made I’d suggest that Metros come on like the Contours – witness ‘Unlucky Sun’ and the thrown-together dance item, ‘Do The Pied Piper’ – yet the Contours did enjoy some success, albeit earlier in the decade… and that, I’d contend, was the nub of the Metros’ problem. Their sound was too dated for the sophisticated demands of the second half of the sixties. In places here – notably on the version of ‘Blue Velvet’ and a bizarre ‘Egyptian Love’ – the sound is pure doo-wop, which by ’67 was considered passé by both the white and black markets. That, of course, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the Metros’ music. Far from it – it’s catchy, danceable and soulful. Little wonder that a number of items (as is often the way with the obscure) found huge favour on the Northern soul scene. Cuts like ‘The Sweetest One’, ‘Since I Found My Baby’ and ‘I’m With You All The Way’ are perfect Northern sounds but the LP’s best cut is ‘I’ll Never Forget You’ – a song often associated with the O’Jays . This one boasts the sweetest Esquires-style harmonies – padded out with female voices (a trick the producers learned in the Motown Snake Pit). It’s a real harmony group connoisseur’s item and needs investigating. For more information go to
(BB) 4/5