The Dramatics: Ron Banks, L.J. Reynolds, Willie Ford, Lenny Mayes, Wenzell Kelly (vocals).
Additional personnel: Lisa Hasty, Angel Sessions (background vocals).
Producers include: Fred Pittman, Rick Balentine, Preston Glass, L.J. Reynolds, Tony Camillo.
Recorded at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California.
Personnel: L.J. Reynolds, Angel Sessions, Ron Banks (vocals).
Arranger: Fred Pittman.
Having recorded some of their most essential work for Stax/Volt in the early '70s, the Dramatics were an obvious choice when Fantasy reactivated Volt in 1999. Although 1999's If You Come Back to Me isn't in a class with the Motor City soulsters' classic '70s output for Stax/Volt and ABC, it's a respectable outing that finds the voices of Ron Banks (the only remaining original member), L.J. Reynolds, Willie Ford, Wenzell Kelly, and Lenny Mayes, continuing to hold up nicely. No, there isn't another "Whacha See Is What You Get" or another "In The Rain," but diehard fans of the veteran group will be glad to hear how good they sound on such romantic ballads as "Hello Love" (which features Angel Sessions, one of the younger artists Volt signed in 1999), "Maddy," and "If You Come Back to Me." The most intriguing track, however, is an unlikely recording of the 16th Century British folk song "Scarborough Fair," which the Dramatics successfully give an R&B/pop makeover. Coincidentally, they weren't the only R&B artists to record "Scarborough Fair" in 1999 -- Samantha Siva, a very promising urban contemporary singer who grew up in Manchester, England but currently lives in New York, gives the classic her own unique and personal interpretation on her second album, Identity. While Siva's interpretation is more hypnotic and subtle, the Dramatics' version finds Reynolds doing some gritty, gospel-influenced belting that somehow manages to bring the African-American church to the English countryside. But, as satisfying as it is, If You Come Back to Me won't go down in history as one of the Dramatics' essential albums -- for casual listeners, The Best of the Dramatics (Fantasy's 16-song collection of their early '70s hits) would be a much better purchase. Even so, this CD demonstrated that they were still capable of delivering a meaningful album as they prepared to enter the 21st Century. ~ Alex Henderson