If you like jazz vocals pick up this Fresh Sound Records reissue of The Metronomes.
Fresh Sound Records FSRCD1125
Paul Benson (1st tenor), Julius Robinson (2nd tenor), Johnny Oglesby (baritone), Charles “Woody” Woodford (bass), Sam Reed (as), Leroy Lovett, Junior Mance (p), Billy Davis, Les Spann (g), Jay Roland (vib), Winston Williams, Henry Grimes, Arthur Harper (b), William “Bubbles” Ross, Grady Tate, Roy McCurdy (d), Melba Liston (arr)
The Metronomes were four guys from Philadelphia who liked to sing together. It was 1959 and doo-wop ruled. The Dells had their huge hit with ‘Oh What A Nite.’ But there were a ton of great Philly doo-wop groups; The Delfonics, The Orleans, The Moonglows, The Spaniels, and more.
The Metronomes wanted to be different. They sang jazz. They only made two records. The first, AND NOW… THE METRONOMES was arranged and produced by piano player Leroy Lovett. Sam Reed played outstanding alto sax on a lot of the tunes.
The Metronomes could easily have sung doo-wop. Listen to the first track ‘Pennies From Heaven.’ Some of the lyrics even include “doo-wop, doo-wop.”
The song’s upbeat with tight vocal harmonies. Doo-wop groups often had minimal instrumentation, sometimes none at all. What pushed The Metronomes toward jazz was the addition of sax, guitar, piano, and some jazzier arrangements.
Melba Liston arranged the second Metronomes record, SOMETHING BIG! In the liner notes she said she pushed the guys pretty hard. I’m glad she did. She helped make a great jazz vocal album. Melba Liston played trombone but I think her arranging is what she’ll be remembered for. I’ve always loved the work she did with Randy Weston.
There are two Monk tunes on SOMETHING BIG! I swear I hear Brian Wilson on the wordless ‘Monk’s Mood.’ The Beachboys always listed The Four Freshmen as an influence. Why not The Metronomes as well?
‘Round Midnight ’is slowed way down but the vocal arrangements are like Monk’s playing. They’re angular and complex with some dissonant harmonies. I bet this was a hard one to sing. Junior Mance does a fine job on piano. SOMETHING BIG! had great players behind the singers.
Besides Mance, there’s Les Spain on guitar, Henry Grimes or Arthur Harper on bass, and Grady Tate or Roy McCurdy on drums.
‘A Night In Tunisia’ is one of the hippest tunes on the CD. The phrasing reminds me of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross.
Most of the lead singing is done by tenors Paul Benson and Julius Robinson. Baritone Conrad Moore takes the lead on ‘Love Is the Thing” and he nails it. The harmonies with the rest of the group are spot on.
If you like jazz vocals pick up this Fresh Sound Records reissue of The Metronomes. I think you’ll be impressed by the group’s vocal precision and the way they interact with each other. Fresh Sound is really good about including pictures of the original covers plus the liner notes.