I've been trying to get out this summer and hit more rummage sales than I have during the past few years. So far I've encountered almost no 45s, but have turned up a few interesting LPs here and there. Probably my favorite so far is the sole long-player by The Marvelows, a group I've never really encountered much music by before.
I've seen various singles over the years, but as is the case with many '60s soul 45s, these records have usually been damaged enough that I haven't picked them up. Also, due to a friend's dismissal of their one pop hit, "I Do," when spotted in a stack of singles years ago, I've always had the impression that the group were MOR balladeers. In this case, I earn a major fail for not picking up the disc anyway, as "I Do" turns out to be a relatively uptempo Northern Soul cut.
There's not a lot of information on The Marvelows to be found online that can't be gleaned from the back of the album jacket. Most of the five vocalists had experience singing in various groups as children, and what would become The Marvelows coalesced in Chicago during the late 1950s. The name choice is interesting, as there was a "Marvellos" in Chicago during the second half of the '50s and a different Los Angeles group using that spelling in the '60s -- which is why the "Mighty" was eventually added as part of their name.
By the time the The Mighty Marvelows LP was released in 1968, the group consisted of lead singer Melvin Mason, bass Frank Paden, and tenors Willie Stevenson, Frank Paden and Andrew Thomas (who had replaced Jessie Smith in 1967), along with "unofficial member" and guitarist Henry Bardwell. As would be natural for a group formed in late '50s Chicago, the group's sound has a strong base in doo-wop. But considering their first 45 wasn't out until 1964, that they were still at times using straight doo-wop vocal arrangements gives them a bit more old school sound than contemporaries who had adjusted to a more straightforward soul direction. That could also be part of why The Marvelows never got much chart action.
The album was released in the wake of the group's final hit on the R&B charts -- the very doo-wop "In the Morning" -- and must have been something of a label cash-in rather than a chance for The Marvelows to finally record an album Along with both sides of the first two singles with the new lineup, there's seven pre-Thomas singles sides here, so the album essentially serves as a defacto greatest hits collection.
Four decades down the road, though, that's not a bad thing, as it gives the listener a good idea of what the group was all about. First off, the best material here is written by the group; a few more generic dance-oriented songs are contributed by producer Johnny Pate. His presence as arranger/conductor is at times reminiscent of his work with The Impressions, but rarely tries to make The Marvelows into a clone of their more famous Chicago neighbors.
It doesn't appear this album has ever been released on CD, though a now out of print Collectables disc essentially reprised the same tracks. Judging by a quick peek at online sources, it may actually be easier to find this LP than the Collectables CD! (ABC, 1968)