Monday, July 27, 2020

The Rivieras: “The Coed Singles” (2020) CD Review

If you are in need of some good doo-wop, you are in luck. Omnivore Recordings is celebrating the music put out on the Coed Records label with the release of several collections including The Rivieras’  The Coed Singles, which includes all eight singles and their flip sides, along with a couple of bonus tracks. The tracks are presented in chronological order of release date, with the two sides of each single placed together. By the way, this group is not to be confused with another group called The Rivieras, that one known for its hit recording of “California Sun.” Interestingly, both groups started out with different names, The Rivieras we’re concerned with here originally being called The Four Arts an then El Rivieras. The Coed Singles includes liner notes by Bill Dahl, telling the story of the group’s brief history.

The collection opens with “Count Every Star,” written by Sammy Gallop and Bruno Coquatrix, and released in 1958. This one has a pretty and romantic feel, the song expressing just how much he misses his love. I love how it builds, with the backing vocalists singing the lines with lead vocalist Homer Dunn before long, instead of taking a different part. It is rather striking. This track has kind of a glorious ending. That song’s flip song, “True Love Is Hard To Find,” is more fun. This one is about the difficulty of finding true love, leading them to sing “So please don’t ever leave me.” Because it would be a drag having to put in that effort to find another one. I love the sax on this track. That’s followed by a cover of Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” a beautiful, romantic number, with lyrics by Mitchell Parish. This track features more nice touches on saxophone, and is one of my personal favorites, a wonderful rendition with a strong ending. This track is also from 1958. Its flip side is “Neither Rain Nor Snow,” with its opening line being “Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night,” but no, it’s not a song about the post office. Rather, it is a song of a dedicated love. By the way, that line which we associate with the postal service is actually from Herodotus.

We then move into 1959 with “Our Love,” which begins with a swell of strings. This is another romantic song featuring some beautiful vocal work. Its flip side, “Midnight Flyer,” is one of my favorite tracks on this disc. It is a whole lot of fun. I love the playful touches, such as the backing vocalists sort of imitating the blow of a train’s horn and the train’s steam as it gets underway. This song also features some great work on guitar. “Since I Made You Cry” is another of the disc’s highlights, with its delicious, steady rhythm, and its great vocal performance. Plus, the vocalists have strings backing them. And then there is a great lead on saxophone that has kind of a raw sound, in contrast to the strings. There is a lot here to sink your teeth into. Its flip side, “11th Hour Medley,” has an easygoing rhythm, fitting with the time this song takes place. This one too features a string section. “Moonlight Cocktails” keeps with that nighttime theme, and is the first single from 1960. “Cool it in the summer breeze/Serve it in the twilight underneath the trees/You’ll discover tricks like these/Are sure to make your moonlight cocktails please.” Yeah, there is something playful about this one, in its lyrics anyway. The flip side is a pretty spiritual number titled “Blessing Of Love.” Is there any greater blessing than that of love? The group sticks with the spiritual theme with “My Friend,” but I prefer the single’s other side, “Great Big Eyes,” which is a delight. It is a play on the Little Red Riding Hood story. I love the rhythm and the style of this one. Clearly, they’re having a good time with it, as you can hear by the use of the word “like” in the line “The better to, like, uh, see you with, my dear” and that howl at the end.

“Stay In My Heart” is a pretty love song, with more work on strings and a nod to “Greensleeves.” The flip side is “Easy To Remember.” There is something light and fanciful about the sound of this one, probably because of the work on strings. “It’s easy to remember/But so hard to forget/So I must dream/To have your hand caress me/Fingers press me tight.” The collection’s final single, “El Dorado,” is a cool and unusual one, with a style somewhat different from the others, featuring something of a Latin vibe and good work on organ. This song was originally released in 1961. Its flip side is a delightfully silly song, “Refrigerator.” It opens with someone shivering and the line “Baby, like what does it take to warm you up?” It also includes goofy lines like “Tell me what to do to defrost you” and “I tried to melt the ice around your heart.” Plus, there is a good, but short lead on sax. This one should certainly get you smiling. The album’s final two tracks are listed as bonus tracks, since they were not singles. They were, however, previously released, both included on The Best Of The Rivieras, a 1991 compilation. The first is “My Silent Love,” a love song with a string section. “I reach for you like I’d reach for a star/Worshiping you from afar.” In addition to The Best Of The Rivieras, “Serenade In Blue,” the collection’s last track, was included on The Rivieras Sing. This one too features strings, and of course another excellent vocal performance. “Blues, I’ve got the blues/When I hear that serenade in blue/I’m somewhere in another world alone with you/Sharing all the joys we used to know/Many moons ago.”

CD Track List
  1. Count Every Star
  2. True Love Is Hard To Find
  3. Moonlight Serenade
  4. Neither Rain Nor Snow
  5. Our Love
  6. Midnight Flyer
  7. Since I Made You Cry
  8. 11th Hour Medley
  9. Moonlight Cocktails
  10. Blessing Of Love
  11. My Friend
  12. Great Big Eyes
  13. Stay In My Heart
  14. Easy To Remember
  15. El Dorado
  16. Refrigerator
  17. My Silent Love
  18. Serenade In Blue
The Coed Singles is scheduled to be released on August 14, 2020 through Omnivore Recordings.

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