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Release Info: THE CHECKMATES LTD. - LOVE IS ALL WE HAVE TO GIVE (A&M 1969) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve
"Black Pearl" is one of the great Phil Spector productions, a phenomenal song with his extraordinary sound. That being said, it would be easy to try to dismiss this excellent album and focus just on the hit. That's the wonderful paradox of Love Is All We Have to Give by the Checkmates, Ltd. and Sonny Charles. Charles only re-scratched the Top 40 once (and that in 1983), but it is this album which showcases his major voice. The Leiber & Stoller composition "I Keep Forgettin'" has that sound from the 1966 Billy Stewart hit version of Gershwin's "Summertime" without the scat singing. Spector's remake of his own 1961 classic for Ben E. King, "Spanish Harlem," fits perfectly here, while "Proud Mary," the simple John Fogerty title, becomes a gospel tour de force falling somewhere between Tina Turner and the Edwin Hawkin Singers. The indomitable Perry Botkin, Jr., who would hit seven years later with "Nadia's Theme" (aka "The Young & the Restless"), arranges and conducts side one with assistance from Dee Barton. Side two is another kettle of fish. Barton arranges Spector's adaption of "The Hair Anthology Suite" from the play Hair, most notably the material made famous by the 5th Dimension ("Age of Aquarius"/"Let the Sunshine In"). Though both artists probably tracked it around the same time -- the 5th Dimension hitting in March and "Black Pearl" hitting in May 1969 -- there is none of the life here that Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis, Jr., and their group put into their first number one hit. Like a classic Spector 45, this album has one side that is totally inspired and brilliant, and a flip that won't get as many spins. All in all, it's a very important, and largely forgotten, bridge in Spector's catalog and his only hit in America on A&M, the same label he brought the Ronettes and Ike & Tina Turner's classic "River Deep, Mountain High.
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