In the early to mid-'50s, the "5" Royales were one of the finest and most influential R&B acts in America, merging potent tunes and frantic rhythms with impressive harmonies and tough, biting guitar lines from group leader Lowman Pauling. However, the group's fortunes were on the wane in 1960 when they signed to Home of the Blues Records, a small Memphis-based independent label whose house band was directed by one Willie Mitchell. Catch That Teardrop compiles 14 tunes the "5" Royales cut for HOTB, and another 14 cuts Pauling recorded as El Pauling with keyboard man Royal Abbit, and while it's not hard to understand why none of these singles were hits, there's no arguing there was a lot of life left in the group at this late date. With the golden age of soul looming on the horizon, the "5" Royales doubtless seemed a bit anachronistic between 1960 and 1962, as these recordings are very much in the mold of their best-known sides for King, but that doesn't reflect on the strength and assurance of these performances. "Goof Ball," "She Did Me Wrong," and "Take Me with You Baby" are top-notch R&B nuggets and "Catch That Teardrop" deserves its status as a collectors' item among British soul fans, and while Pauling and his group are the stars of the show, the propulsive and energetic horn arrangements Mitchell contributed to the sessions certainly add to their appeal.
The El Pauling cuts aren't quite as impressive thanks to less-than-stellar songs like "I'm a Cool Teenager," "Mr. Moon Man," and "Jail Bird," but they allow plenty of room for Pauling's guitar work, and it's fine stuff. Novice listeners interested in the "5" Royales should start with their superb King recordings (try Rhino's superb anthology Monkey Hips and Rice), but these samples of their late-era sides show that Pauling and his group were making fine music right up to the end of their recording career