Unknown Contributor Roles: The Bop Chords; The Harmonaires; The Ladders; The Lovenotes; The Thunderbirds.
Collectables Records launched its seven-volume Harlem Holiday series with this compilation of doo wop recordings made for the Harlem-based Holiday label. The presentation on this volume differs from all the later discs in the series in that it has 18 tracks instead of 14, and compiles the A- and B-sides of nine singles by six groups in order. Later volumes mix things up and often present no more than one cut by each act. Harlem Holiday, Vol. 1 begins with six sides by the Bop Chords, including their local hit, "Castle in the Sky" -- one of the two or three best cuts on the disc. The performance quality from track to track varies widely, even from the same group; for example, the Bop Chords followed their "Castle in the Sky" single with one that contained "I Really Love Her So," a recording marred by particularly off-key lead vocals (many of the groups had a rough "street" sound all the time). The Thunderbirds offer a hard-hitting R&B song, "In My Thunderbird," but the other recordings are smoother with a tendency toward ballads. The Harmonaires, the Love Notes (responsible for the excellent "United" and "Tonight"), the Pretenders, and the Ladders are the other groups represented. The music on the Harlem Holiday series is seemingly directed at locals and serious doo wop collectors, but it does them no favors by providing no liner notes, no track information, no recording dates, and no information about the Holiday label -- if you didn't already know, you could not even figure out from the packaging that there was a Holiday label and that the recordings are drawn from its catalog. ~ Greg Adams
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