4.5 out of 5 Stars!
I’m sure many folks like myself who were “music conscious” from the early ’70s and into the ’80s likely couldn’t go more than a day or two without hearing music on the radio created by these talented gals. I, however, being more into Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, and Progressive Rock during my teen years in the ’70s, didn’t pay much attention, though. Sure, I’d heard the act’s first single “Yes We Can Can” and admired the amazing vocal prowess of the four sisters, but it wasn’t until many years later at a party when someone slipped on an album called Priority and I heard the girls performing an energetic version of Ian Hunter’s “Who Do You Love?” when I decided to investigate the group’s back catalogue.
One thing that struck me when initially hearing this debut album is the wide variety of material on display. In the early days of the group, the singers (dressed in vintage clothing from the ’30s and ’40s, replete with boas, extravagant hats, and handkerchiefs) performed a combination of wildly intricate Jazz, Blues, Soul, Funk, and Rock tunes, and their jaw-dropping vocal harmonies, something more akin to a bygone era (ie. The Andrews Sisters), sent chills up my spine. Especially breathtaking were periodic forays into scat vocals, with each sister imitating a brass instrument most closely associated with their individual vocal range. Amazing stuff!
The diverse range of material on this debut includes numerous highlights, such as the band’s famous rocking/funk version of Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can,” several ’40s-like jazz tunes with mile-a-minute four-part harmonies such as “Pains And Tears” and “Cloudburst,” a few slinky pieces such as “Naked Foot” and “Jada,” a tribute to the songs of yesteryear entitled (appropriately) “Old Songs,” an experimental scat-vocal excursion “That’s How I Feel,” and a rousing bluesy/funky version of Willie Dixon’s classic “Wang Dang Doodle,” with the gals trading off lead vocals and ad-libbing up a storm. Again, awe-inspiring vocal performances abound on each and every track, and whether or not you’re into the particular musical styles covered on this album, there’s no denying the magnificent talent on display.
The band continued in this vein for several more albums before one of the sisters (Bonnie) left for a solo career, whereas the remaining trio took a path toward more rocking territory, then eventually moved into the electronic pop genre that made them enormously famous in the ’80s. Frankly, after growing familiar with this album and the two immediate follow-ups (That’s A Plenty and Steppin’) I can’t help but wish the group had continued as a four-piece, creating more of the stunning material that graced these initial albums. Simply brilliant.