The Impressions were architects of the smooth Chicago soul sound of the 60s. Like many other soul acts the Impressions' roots were in the church. Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler met in a Chicago church choir. The two future giants of soul sang together in gospel groups before joining a doo-wop act called the Roosters. The name soon changed to Jerry Butler and the Impressions and the group scored a crossover hit with "Your Precious Love." Butler went solo, Mayfield became group leader and songwriter, the Impressions signed with ABC-Paramount and hit again with "Gypsy Woman."
Eventually the act was pared down to a trio consisting of Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden and Fred Cash. The Impressions racked up a long string of 60s hits in categories ranging from gospel to love ballads to black pride anthems embraced by the Civil Rights Movement.
The Impressions top 20 hit "We're a Winner" was one such anthem. However, the killer bee on the back of that 45 is
the side I'd like you to hear, the sweet, tender, melancholy ballad "It's All Over."
"It's All Over" - Impressions (February 1968, uncharted
B side of "We're a Winner.")
Unlike some acts that experience a decline in quality over the years, the Impressions continued to make great recordings in the late 60s after they left ABC. In 1968 Mayfield started his own record label, Curtom, becoming one of the first African Americans to have his own label, Sam Cooke being the first. This is My Country, the first Impressions album released on Curtom, went top 5 on the R&B albums chart. It was chock full of excellent material including the title track which went top 30 pop and top 10 R&B. The album included a another beautiful soul ballad entitled "Gone Away."
"Gone Away" - Impressions (track from 1968 album
This is My Country)
When a group records updated versions of its early hits the results are often disappointing. Not so with the Impressions!
The Curtom compilation album The Best Impressions: Curtis, Sam and Fred offered fresh new versions of "Gypsy Woman," "Keep on Pushin', "I'm So Proud," 'I've Been Tryin'" and "Amen." All were as good or better than the originals.
Purist fans often cringe when a soul group tackles pop-jazz standards, show tunes and movie soundtracks. In 1969 the Impressions' former label ABC released a compilation of such material titled The Versatile Impressions. I bought the album and enjoyed it, my favorite track the Impressions' version of the Bacharach-David composition "The Look of Love," sung originally by Dusty Springfield on the soundtrack of the movie Casino Royale and turned into a top 5 charting hit single by Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66.
"The Look of Love" - Impressions (track from 1969 album
The Versatile Impressions) highest chart position #58)
Poor Neil Sedaka is still sitting by the phone waiting for the nominating committee to call and tell him he's finally been named to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It'll probably never happen because Neil is considered a titan of pop rather than rock. Millions of fans are outraged over such nitpicking.
A seldom heard Neil Sedaka goody called "Bad Girl" reached the Billboard chart in November 1963 just six days before President Kennedy was assassinated. Defiantly derivative, "Bad Girl" sounds very much like "Foolish Little Girl" by the Shirelles with a little of Neil's "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" sprinkled in. The result is an ear pleasing hybrid that pene-
trated the top 40 but somehow failed to become a major hit.
"Bad Girl" - Neil Sedaka
(December 1963, highest chart position #33/uncharted)
In the spring of 1965, Jr. Walker & The All Stars achieved their first and biggest hit with "Shotgun."
In the spring of 1969, Vanilla Fudge, a combination psychedelic rock and blue-eyed soul band, reloaded "Shotgun", made a decent dent in the Billboard chart
and electrified audiences with their live performances.
"Shotgun" - Vanilla Fudge (March 1969, highest chart
His was one of the most distinctive voices of the boomer generation. The late, great Gene Pitney was not only a
gifted singer, he was also a songwriter who penned hits
for other artists like Bobby Vee ("Rubber Ball"), The Crystals ("He's a Rebel") and Ricky Nelson ("Hello Mary Lou"). Like Lesley Gore, Gene Pitney was part of an elite group of early 60s American recording artists whose careers survived and thrived during the British Invasion. Quality never goes out of style and here are two Gene Pitney recordings that prove it, one released before the Beatles exploded and one released after. "True Love Never Runs Smooth," a Burt Bacharach - Hal David composition, charted near the top 20 in the late summer of 1963 a few months before Beatlemania swept America.
"True Love Never Runs Smooth" - Gene Pitney
(September 1963, highest chart position #21)
Two years later Gene Pitney's "Last Chance to Turn Around" made a respectable run at the top 10 amid the new normal of Brit band chart domination.
"Last Chance to Turn Around" - Gene Pitney (July 1965,
highest chart position #13)
Have a Shady day!