Monday, 20 July 2009

Mellokings - The Herald Sessions

The Mellokings – The Herald Sessions
Acrobat ACMCD4301

Tracklist: Tonight Tonight I Promise Our Love is Beautiful Sassafrass Once On a Windy Day The Only Girl (I'll Ever Love) Kid Stuff Chapel on the HIll Chip Chip Valerie Starbright Baby Tell Me (Why Why Why) Do Baby Do Running to You Penny I Played the Part of a Fool Thrill Me (Not originally issued) Dear Mr. Jock Till There Were None Workout (Not originally issued) She's Real Cool Love at First Sight Chapel on the Hill (alt.) Chip Chip (alt. - not originally issued) Tonight Tonight (alt.) Love at First Sight (alt.)

I gotta confession to make – I actually like white doo-wop as much as black doo-wop. Before you going hanging me from street corner lamppost, have a think, and I’ll bet you love it too. You got Dion and the Belmonts to start with, then you got a whole tenement block full of groups like Vito and the Salutations and the Mellokings. Acrobat Records have just released a CD by the Mellokings and there is plenty on it for beginners. I’ve only borrowed it from a friend as I’ve got their stuff on Relic and to be honest, there’s not enough on the new one to need an upgrade. However, if you haven’t got anything by them, what can you expect?

First and foremost the band are famous for the beautiful 1957 ballad, Tonite Tonite which although revered in doo-wop circles, only reached numbers 77 and 95 on it’s original release and it’s1961 reissue.

The group formed in 1956 in Mount Vernon, New York and consisted of Bob Scholl (tenor), his younger brother, Jerry Scholl (high tenor), and Eddie Quinn (second tenor), Neil Arena (baritone) and Larry Esposito (bass). They signed for Al Silver, owner of Herald and Ember Records and recorded Tonite, Tonite at their first session together with the flip, Do Baby Do.

The follow-up single in September 1957, Chapel On The Hill was another lovely ballad while the flip, Sassafras was more of a novelty teen rock ‘n’ roller. Before the year was out Herald released a third single, the uptempo Baby Tell Me Why, Why, Why and the ballad The Only Girl. Despite promotional appearances and national exposure on the likes of American Bandstand and working an Irvin Feld 17 day tour featuring the Everly Brothers, the Crickets, the Rays, the Hollywood Flames, Eddie Cochran, and Jimmy Rodgers, they still couldn’t crack the charts.

The writing must have been on the wall that chart success would allude them after the glorious ballad Valerie failed to register the following March. She's Real Cool maintained the excellence, being an archetypal zoom-bappa-boom style doo-wopper. If I have to be negative here, I’d say that the instrumental breaks on most of their songs, leave a lot to be desired and can lose the momentum.

In the spring of 1958, the Mellokings became a four-piece when Neil Arena left. Mot long after, Larry Esposito also left, and the Mellokings replaced them with Louis Jannacone and Tony Pinto. This was the line-up that recorded Chip Chip in November 1958. Released in January 1959, Chip Chip is a great novelty that had hit record written all over it. The flip Running To You was a nice slowie that had more than a hint of Dion about it.

It was over a year before the next release, another lovely ballad, Our Love Is Beautiful backed by the neat Dear Mr. Jock. By the end of 1960 the group was back to being a quartet with Jerry Scholl, Bobby Scholl, Lou Jannacone, and Tony Pinto. Kid Stuff and I Promise from September ’60 both have their moments but if Valerie and Chip Chip weren’t going to hit, these certainly wouldn’t.

Late 1960 saw the issuing of their only album, The Mellokings Sing, which makes up the first half of this Acrobat CD. As well as containing the singles released to date, it also featured a couple of previously-unreleased numbers including the too-white and too-shite, Once On A Windy Day.

With doo-wop enjoying a second coming as early as 1961, the Mellokings could have been forgiven for thinking that they were finally in the right place as the right time. Penny is heavily stringed but the vocals are nice enough but it was their final Herald release in October where they hit their highest artistic heights since Tonite Tonite. Love At First Sight has everything a classic doo-wop record should have, relentless ooh-ah’s behind a lifting lead vocal. It’s a beauty and with Bobby Scholl sublime. Among the autographs he was signing at the time, the biggest was for a certain Uncle Sam, as he was drafted.

That’s the story as far as this CD goes. If you’ve got the Relic album you won’t need this, but if not, t’s a more than worthwhile item that should find a warm reception in any doo-woppers collection.

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