THE DRAMATICS: Joy Ride (Soul Music Records)

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Released on ABC Records, ‘Joy Ride’ was the Dramatics’ sixth studio album (seventh, if you count their wonderful collaboration with the mighty Dells) and thanks to David Nathan’s Soul Music Records, the 10 tracker gets its first CD reissue. Listening to it now – some 35 years after its initial release- you can hear why the Detroit combo never quite made it to the major leagues. Despite a couple of fabulous career highs (‘Watcha See Is Watcha Get’/ ‘In The Rain’) the Dramatics weren’t overly commercial or distinctive… and ‘Joy Ride’ offers evidence to support that proposition. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the soul quotient of this album; ditto the performances, the production and the arrangements. What this set lacks (indeed what most of their LPs lacked) are some crucial, catchy songs – ear worms that could have made the Dramatics household names like, say, The Temptations whose tight harmonies and vocal switching the Dramatics copied so perfectly.

That said, there’s plenty here to please soul connoisseurs who’ve always harboured a soft spot for the Dramatics anyway. They’ll probably head straight to the big ballads – like ‘I Get Carried Away’, ‘Be My Girl’, ‘Say The Word’ and ‘I Can’t Get Over You’. All have travelled down time much better than the faster numbers. ‘Finger Fever’, ‘Richest Man Alive’ and others are very much mid 70s timepieces though, again, vocally you won’t be able to find fault. What ‘Joy Ride’ lacks is something like ‘Watcha See Is Watcha Get’ or ‘In The Rain’.

This reissue pack offers two bonus cuts – the single edits of ‘Be My Girl’ and ‘Sundown Is Coming’ – both of which were US R&B top 10 hits in 1976.

(BB) 3/5