Tavares began their pro music odyssey as “Chubby and the Turnpikes” and under that moniker the New England brothers cut a couple of singles for Juggy Murray’s Sue/Crackerjack label. The singles were eventually licensed to Capitol. In 1973 Capitol renewed their interest in the group (now sensibly using the family surname) after guitarist Robert Bowles took the tune he’d recorded with the boys to the major. Said tune was a reworking of the Friends of Distinction’s ‘Check It Out’ and when Capitol released it, it quickly climbed both the R&B and pop charts.
On the strength of the hit Capitol needed a Tavares album and Motown veteran Johnny Bristol was brought in to produce. The subsequent album, named for that debut hit, has just won reissue via Caroline/Soul Music and the 11 tracker (the reissue offers one bonus cut) is a master class in sweet soul harmony.
‘Check It Out’ still sounds superb and like all good covers is different to the original. Interestingly lead vocal on the cut comes from Victor Tavares – not a regular group member. He came to the recording to replace Chubby who was hospitalised at the time of recording and though Victor does a great job he doesn’t even get a name check on the original album credits!
Amongst the other album highlights are a great version of Lambert and Potter’s ‘Mama’s Little Girl’ (originally recorded by dear old Dusty Springfield) and Johnny Bristol’s own ‘Strangers In Dark Corners’.
Capitol spared no expense for the album allowing Bristol to use an A team of session players – James Gadson, Dean Parks, Wahwah Ragin, Joe Sample, Wilton Felder and a certain James Jamerson amongst them. Little wonder everything’s slick and polished and smooth and sophisticated but the brothers’ vocals keep everything rooted in soulsville.
Tavares, of course, went on to become consistent hit makers and they still tour today. Indeed your reviewer caught ’em a few years back on the same bill as the 4Tops and the Temptations, and for energy and enjoyment they put the Tops and the Tempts in the shade…. and they even sang ‘Check It Out’!