Forgotten series: The Choir – Choir Practice (1994)

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Armed with an arsenal of great songs, sharp chops and a cool look, the Choir were Cleveland, Ohio’s answer to the best of the British Invasion.

Formed in late 1964 and initially called the Mods, the band gathered much local success right up until their break up in 1970. During those years, they recorded a whole bunch of material, but in the end only four singles were officially issued.

Although Choir Practice (Sundazed Records) offers the band’s first and biggest selling single, the jangling “It’s Cold Outside,” which reached No. 68 on the national charts in the summer of 1967 and sounds like a heavenly head on collision between the Searchers and the Hollies, the disc centers on previously unreleased tracks. In view of these tunes, it’s easy to hear why the Choir was so revered but impossible to understand why those holding the reins failed to increase their visibility level. Not ones to merely cover other people’s work, the band wrote their own songs, which were nothing short of extraordinary.

Cast of detailed structures, rich melodies and handsome harmonies, the Choir’s efforts, pound for pound, ounce for ounce, matched those of their lofty inspirations.

Tracing the band’s evolution from Anglo beat disciples to progressive pop rockers, Choir Practice even features the demos they recorded when they were known as the Mods. Among these tunes that sat in the vaults and amassed dust are the raggedy, blues sloped pickings of “I’m Slippin,’” the fetching “In Love’s Shadow” and a take of “Leave Me Be” that remains highly faithful to the original version by the Zombies.

Shimmering vocals, attended by digging hooks paper the walls of “I Only Did It Cause I Felt So Lonely,” “Dream Of One’s Life” and “A To F (I Don’t Want Nobody),” while the lushly textured “Smile” conducts an air of moody sophistication. As time marched on and the Choir met with personnel shifts, a change in their style occurred. Toning down the smooth and sparkly Mersey flavored fare, the band adopted an edgier bite. Streaked with stately keyboard escapades, the dazzling “Anyway I Can” and the driving “Boris’ Lament” ushered in the Choir’s new and ambitious sound, and then there’s “If These Are Men,” which zooms forth catchy hard rocking Who type rhythm and movement.

Not only is Choir Practice stuffed with long-lost treasures, but it also allows a peek at what was to come. After the band expired, three of its members, Wally Bryson, Dave Smalley and Jim Bonfanti, connected with Eric Carmen and found fame with Raspberries. From 1972-75, the band encountered both critical and commercial success, with singles such as “Go All The Way,” “I Wanna Be With You,” “Let’s Pretend” and “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” infiltrating the radio dial.

Crisscrossing their Beatlesque roots with the occasional bump and grind of Free and Humble Pie, Raspberries are duly referred to as power pop pioneers.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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