R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

VOICES Notes and news on R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax releases

Staying Power

15 FEB 12 DAVID SHANNON

Name another group that's held together as long as The Dells, another band that has for the most part maintained its lineup throughout a nearly 50-year career, another act that has logged hit singles in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, and stayed true to its musical roots long enough to continue recording slick, soulful R&B into the 2000s. Aside from possibly the Isley Brothers, The Dells stand as the shining example of the power of cohesion in a vocal group, and the band's unity is in full effect on their 2000 recording, Reminiscing, on the Fantasy label Volt.

The album is all new material -- aside from a short revisiting of their 1971 hit, "The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind)," which opens the album -- and fans will find that the original vocal magic is still there, anchored by Marvin Junior's husky baritone and buoyed by Johnny Carter's falsetto and the shimmering backups of Mickey McGill, Verne Allison, and Chuck Barksdale.

A handful of tracks in particular stand out, including "Here 4 U," which has a layered, lush sound and a timeless hook; "The Whole Truth," a fresh piece of contemporary doo-wop; and "Baby Come Back," coming across like a lost cut from the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino's sly 1997 blaxploitation ode, "Jackie Brown." The album is also a bit of a look back for The Dells, as many songs spotlight the glory of their past and how well the group has stuck to its beginnings and come out the better for it so many years later.