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The Ebonys, The Ebonys [remastered] (Epic/Legacy)
When soul still had some gospel in it, before disco killed R&B fans' taste for slow-grooves and earnest yearning on vinyl, the Ebonys were hot. The Philly quartet, backed by the legendary production of Philly Soul producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, weren't burning up the radio airwaves by any means in the early 1970s when they released an album full of lush arrangements, better-than-solid vocals, and pure soul. If they're known for a single song, it would be "You're the Reason Why," a top-ten hit on the R&B charts. "It's Forever", a seven-minute slow-dance ballad in the tradition of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, would be a similar hit, after two failed attempts at mainstream success with "Determination" and "I'm So Glad I'm Me". There is innocent beauty in this best of The Ebonys, which includes bonus tracks with what could have been hit potential twenty years ago. "The Ebonys," as the press release reads, "had more singles without ever swatting rare air." There is all the stuff of old-school R&B and soul in this work -- from the revival-like sounds of "Sexy Ways" to the epic and pretty "You're the Reason Why". Listening to this small part of their catalogue is nostalgia-inducing and feels like listening in on an era when lead male vocalists could make a careening falsetto sound like true love over a swooning arrangement of lush instruments. When singing "baby, baby, baby" was enough to win over an audience, as long as there was some sincerity in it.
J. Victoria Sanders