Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Moonglows

  • Return of the Moonglows [RCA Victor, 1972] C+
  • Their Greatest Hits [MCA, 1997] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Return of the Moonglows [RCA Victor, 1972]
On the one hand, this revival of the great '50s group is obviously a money-making scheme. On the other hand, ex-Moonglow and Motown producer Harvey Fuqua has done a serious updating job--strings, after all, are the correct studio equivalent of the group's smooth polyphonous style, and "I Was Wrong" fuses the two periods beautifully. But there were strings in the '50s, too, and it meant something for the Moonglows to replace them with voices. On both hands, I'd rather listen to the real stuff. C+

Their Greatest Hits [MCA, 1997]
No doowoppers worth a damn--not even the micromanaged Drifters--were slicker or more precise than Harvey Fuqua's underlings. They couldn't have done it without Bobby Lester, who adapted his flexible light baritone as easily to straight ballad readings as to the tricky swoops and sobs bassman-bossman Fuqua demanded. But Lester flopped on his own, while Fuqua went on to a&r Etta James, Junior Walker, the Spinners, and "Sexual Healing"-era Marvin Gaye, a New Moonglow 25 years before. Subsuming window displays of special effects in songful flow, the pleasure Fuqua's arrangements take in vocal interaction is clever, calculated, corny--all that. But they're also richer and more ecumenical than almost anything in the gospel quartet tradition doowop supposedly cheapens. A