The Sylvers – 1972 – The Sylvers
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The first album by The Sylvers – a hard soulful band made up of youngsters from LA, but who had a lot more going on than some of the other kiddie-soul bands of the early 70s! The group’s a sextet at this point, with four male voices and two female ones – coming across as a sweet blend of tenor and soprano harmonies, in a similar mode to the Five Stairsteps. The record has a solid sound and a funky groove that gives you a hint at what stars the kids would grow up to be – as not only The Sylvers would go on to crack the charts big, but members Leon and Foster would do some pretty great soul work on their own. Jerry Peters did arrangements on the best cuts – with that slightly messed-up groove that he brought to his best 70s work. The record includes the great funky sample cut “Fool’s Paradise“, which has a great intro that steps along with a fierce bongo sample! Also includes some nice mellower soul material – like “Wish That I Could Talk to You“, “I Know Myself“, and “Chaos“. All that and Jerry Butler production too!
The debut album of The Sylvers-at this point featuring Leon,Olympia Ann, Charmaine, James and the (at the time) the little ones Ricky and Edmund does kind of try to peg this Memphis family as a Southern version of the Jackson 5. But after listening to the album it’s more than clear the approach The Sylvers take is fundamentally different. Not to mention the sisters are included in the act but there is a deeper,darker and generally funkier approach to the music that is more in tune with fairly adult southern funk/soul of the period than anything very bouncy in the Motown/Vee Jay tradition of family soul groups. Also there is a Five Stairsteps-like approach with great funky message songs such as “Fool’s Paradise” and “Chaos” and heavy use of vocal harmonies. But again the feeling The Sylvers get is a heavier and even just maybe a bit more edgy. The only teen soul influenced songs have a slightly more rock and soul flavor such as “I’ll Never Be Ashamed” with it’s use of hand claps and “I Know Myself” with some of it’s more drawn out,fuzzy guitars. The vocal quality of the “tweenaged” younger brothers the the similarly smokey voiced female singers cross in and out of lead vocals to a point where one is never certain who exactly is singing. This album isn’t much at all like the music they would be making a several years later with Freddie Parren. But it does a great job at showcasing the broader southern funk/soul/pop flavors of their earlier music.
Enjoy The Sylvers III in our back pages here