Bill Deal and the Rhondels – Vintage Rock (1969): Forgotten Series

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The title of Bill Deal and the Rhondels’ debut album not only announced where this Portsmouth, Virginia band’s musical allegiances rested, but employed a term that was clearly not common in the ever-evolving days of rock and roll. Focusing strictly on horn-driven soul pop, Vintage Rock (Heritage Records) may sidestep the experimental mindset of the era, yet the songs possess so much strength and vitality that they don’t sound dated at all – no matter what time period we are referring to.

After several years of enjoying local acclaim, Bill Deal (who played organ on Jimmy Soul’s 1963 hit single “If You Wanna Be Happy“) and the Rhondels finally caught fire on a national level during the first half of 1969 when covers of Maurice Williams’ “May I” and Ray Whitley’s “I’ve Been Hurt” reached No. 39 and No. 35 respectively on the charts. Both these tunes, which appear on Vintage Rock, are propelled by booming harmonies stacked atop grooving rhythms and bright and brassy arrangements. They capture the standard for the remainder of the album.

Further included on Vintage Rock is the sharp and shimmering “Nothing Succeeds Like Success,” along with enthused renditions of Young-Holt Unlimited’s jaunty instrumental “Soulful Strut,” and the flourishing flashes of “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” that the teaming of the Supremes and the Temptations previously struck gold with. Designed of crisp and swaying frequencies, “Swingin’ Tight” and a gritty take of the Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog” kick in as additional memorable cuts on the disc.

Cushioned with uptempo tracks geared for shuffling the feet and shaking the body, Vintage Rock portrays what a confident and concise band Bill Deal and the Rhondels were. Although there is nothing novel here, select material and energetic performances crown the album a keeper. Those appreciative of the Motown and Stax artists, as well as the blue-eyed soul of folks such as the Soul Survivors and John Fred and the Playboys, will certainly approve of Vintage Rock and its dance party pleasures.

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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