The Royalettes (sisters Sheila and Anita Ross, Veronica Brown and Terry Brown) came from Baltimore where they first got together in high school. Talent show winners, they cut a couple of sides for the local Chancellor label in ’62 and ’63 before an even shorter tenure at Warner Brothers. Things began to happen for the girls, though, when they came to the attention of Teddy Randazzo who brought them to New York and won them a contract with MGM. The girls’ first two MGM singles followed their earlier efforts into the cut out bins, but their third single – 1965’s ‘It’s Gonna Take A Miracle’ became an overnight smash. Even now – over 45 years later – it’s easy to hear why. Written and produced by Randazzo, it’s a beautiful love song. Its melody and lyrics are instantly memorable and Randazzo’s arrangement is the perfect foil for the girls’ winsome, harmonic delivery. No wonder the song’s become a soul mainstay – covered many times, most notably by Laura Nyro (with Labelle) and Deniece Williams. On the back of the hit MGM cobbled together an album named after the smash and the following year the label invested in a second album – ‘The Elegant Sound Of The Royalettes’. Singles culled from the albums failed to have any impact so label execs eventually brought in Bill Medley to work with the girls but when his efforts faltered, MGM dropped the quartet – who, after a brief stint with Roulette, disbanded in 1967.
Here, Cherry Red subsidiary RPM has licensed all the Royalettes’ MGM output and we can enjoy once again their totally distinctive sound and maybe ponder why the group didn’t experience more hits and a greater longevity. The biggest tune amongst the 30 tracks is still the timeless ‘It’s Gonna Take A Miracle’ and because of its huge success much of what Randazzo crafted for the girls was based on roughly the same template; that’s to say – lushly produced balladry and maybe the general record buying public perceived the Royalettes as one trick ponies… but if you’re a lover of uptown soul, it’s a fabulous trick that stands replay after replay! Amongst the great music on offer is a great re-reading of Little Anthony’s ‘Hurt So Bad’ (here entitled ‘You Bring Me Down’), a cover of Barbara Mason’s ‘Yes I’m Ready’ and a stab at the Oscar-nominated theme to the ‘Umbrellas Of Cherbourg’ movie, ‘Watch What Happens’. On all three – and indeed throughout – Randazzo creates a wonderfully lush soundscape that harks back to his work with Little Anthony and the Imperials and points forward to the kind of soul Thom Bell was going to perfect with the Delfonics. Because the album is a complete retrospective of the Royalettes’ MGM output you also get both sides of the Bill Medley-produced single and on ‘(He Is) My Man’ and ‘Take My Love’, the ex Righteous Brother achieves an even more soulful sound that proves that the Royalettes deserve to be known for much more than that one song!