The Dramatics: L.J. Reynolds, Ron Banks, Lenny Mayes, Willie Ford, Winzell Kelly (vocals).
Recorded live at the Palace Theater, New Haven, Connecticut on June 8, 2001. Includes liner notes by Lee Hildebrand.
Ask a group of Dramatics fans what the group's most productive decade was, and the vast majority of them will agree that the Motor City soulsters reached their creative peak in the '70s (which was also when they reached their commercial peak). However, the Dramatics were around before the '70s -- the group's original lineup was formed in 1962 -- and they were still active when the 21st century arrived. Greatest Hits Live documents a 2001 concert at the Palace Theater in New Haven, CT, where the five-man lineup consists of Ron Banks, L.J. Reynolds, Lenny Mayes, Willie Ford, and Wenzell Kelly. Few surprises occur, but Banks and friends are in good form on '70s gems like "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get," "In the Rain," "Be My Girl," and "Hey You! Get Off My Mountain." Saying that few surprises occur isn't saying that no surprises occur; a bit of dancehall-style toasting (not the sort of thing one ordinarily expects from the Dramatics) finds its way into "Stand Up Clap Your Hands," and the concert takes a hip-hop detour with a Snoop-less performance of "Doggy Dogg World" (the 1994 Snoop Dogg hit that found the Dramatics making an unlikely guest appearance on a gangsta rap tune). But most of the concert is devoted to songs from the group's '70s heyday, and while Greatest Hits Live tends to be predictable, it is predictable in a good way -- "Thank You for Your Love" and many of the other soul classics that they perform have held up impressively well over the years. Greatest Hits Live falls short of essential, although the soul veterans' more devoted fans will find it to be a satisfying document of their 2001 tour. ~ Alex Henderson