Honey & The Bees – 1970 – Love
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Considered as one of the “Holy Grails” of female black soul albums, the scarcity of the album outweighs the less than 29 minutes contents easily. This is kind of like listening to a 60’s girl group artifact (The Supremes an example) released in 1970 when such soul styles were becoming phased out. This is generic female soul music, Folks, with slow to mid tempo ballads without any major highlights.
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Honey & the Bees were a talented soul group out of Philadelphia, originally named the Yum Yums, and comprised of Nadine Felder White, Cassandra Ann Wooten, Jean Davis and Gwen Oliver. They changed their name to Honey & the Bees before signing with Arctic (the great soul imprint that was also home to the Soul Ambassadors). The quartet recorded around five sides with Arctic, including a few choice and expensive Northern soul pieces. In 1970, Honey & the Bees went over to Josie (best known as the home of the Meters’ first three albums) and knocked out an LP for them plus another half dozen or so singles. With both labels the group had the backing of musicians that played on classic ‘70s Gamble-Huff productions.
These included Leon Huff himself on piano, and Ron Baker, Earl Young, Bobby Eli, and Norman Harris in the rhythm section; Harris and Thom Bell were among those who contributed to the songwriting. As such, though the Supremes are an obvious point of comparison, they had far better production that the vast majority of girl group aspirants from the same era. Honey & the Bees spent years on the club circuit, opening for bigger soul acts in Philadelphia and throughout the East Coast before disbanding in 1973. Group member Gwen Oliver married Fred Wesley of the JB’s, whom she met when Honey & the Bees opened for James Brown in 1971 (rumour has it that their headstrong, take-no-b.s. attitude eventually came into conflict with Brown’s own strong-armed control over his players and he had Wesley remove the group off tour). Cassandra Wooten and Gwen Oliver were later in The Ritchie Family.