Hard to believe the Roomates have been around so long that almost as much time has passed since their formation and the doo wop era they so superbly resurrect. While their revivalist compatriots were busily bringing rockabilly back to life in the mid-'80s, this group of friends turned even further back into the past for inspiration. Surprisingly perhaps, considering the adoration their elders held for African-American R&B, the Roomates preferred white doo woppers particularly Dion & the Belmonts and the sound of the stellar Laurie label. But, as Steve Webb explains in the sleeve notes, what drew them to the Belmonts was their more egalitarian distribution of vocals between the lead singer and the harmonizers. And the Roomates certainly share the lead around, with only Mark Webb, Steve's brother, choosing not to step out into the limelight. A few years in to the band, the group added a fourth singer, a host of their own compositions to their repertoire, and finely polished their vocals and arrangements. This set, their third full-length, features all of the above across 24 tracks -- ten originals and 14 scrumptious covers.
The latter are astutely chosen numbers from the likes of the Duprees, the Cascades, the Capris, and the Belmonts of course, as well as a quite stunning a cappella version of the Platters' classic "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." All are beautifully and eloquently delivered, with unique arrangement that, while true to the doo wop past, are distinctively the quartet's own. There are also some surprisingly inspired inclusions, such as a fabulously upbeat version of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love," and an absolutely sublime take on the obscure Jade Four's "Skyline of Manhattan." The Roomates' own songs slot beautifully in between the covers, thematically and lyrically; many of them could have been written and performed back in the day and would have received equal acclaim. Some, like "There's No Moon Out Tonight" -- a clever retort to the Capris' hit -- are inspired by classics past. "Tell Me" is particularly witty, and with its adaptation of the signature bassline from the "James Bond Theme" song, it quickly becomes clear that this is no mystery girl the Roomates are left heartbroken by, but 007 himself. The musical accompaniments are equally accomplished, encompassing the spectrum of stylings from R&B, C&W, early pop/rock and big band, all creating perfect backdrops for the quartet's flawless vocals. Return to the past in all its glory with today's Roomates. ~ Jo-Ann Greene