Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Spaniels

  • 16 Soulful Serenades [Solid Smoke, 1984] A
  • Goodnight, Sweetheart 1953-1961 [Jasmine, 2012] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

16 Soulful Serenades [Solid Smoke, 1984]
Doowop is best sampled on multiple-artist compilations and studied on single-artist anthologies. This is for listening; it's a doowop album, with only one medium-tempo hit disturbing the devotionally deliberate pace. Like all the great doowop tenors, Pookie Hudson infused romantic escapism with the high aspirations of gospel, and his bosses at Vee-Jay gave him some great escapes to fly with. The first side is superb, the second more tipico, and you can sample or study if you prefer. Nor is that the end of it--those who think rock and roll should always be fast will be moderately amazed by the same great group's jumping 1981 Charly import, which bears the devotionally deliberate title Great Googly Moo! A

Goodnight, Sweetheart 1953-1961 [Jasmine, 2012]
They stuck with a black-owned label that stuck around. They were blessed with two well-mismatched singers--lead tenor Pookie Hudson for slow romance, up-front bass man Gerald Gregory for comedy and change of pace. Also, Hudson could write--except for the "5" Royales' Lowman Pauling and biz lifer Harvey Fuqua, more resourcefully than any other performer on the doowop continuum. Slow romance was of course their specialty--"You Gave Me Peace of Mind" and "I'm Gonna Thank Him" are both deeper than their title song and greatest hit. But they had fun upping the tempo--the bassy "Bounce," the partying "A Rockin' Good Way," the mind-boggled "Play It Cool." Predictably, this double-CD is a little too much of a good thing: among 53 tracks that encompass both of their albums and all remaining A and B sides, there have to be generic moments. But the albums hold up as such--in the '50s!--and although Hudson is less spectacular than the Drifters' Clyde McPhatter or the Platters' Tony Williams, he's warmer than either, happy to fit in. In a vocal group, fitting in is a serious virtue, and the Spaniels were a great one. A-