Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Take a Different Expressway!
The Vibrations - Expressway to Your Heart
The Vibrations' career ran the gamut from the doo-wop era, when they cut the doo wop classic "Stranded in the Jungle" as the Jayhawks and "Peanut Butter" as the Marathons, to the funky '70s, when they gave the world the fabulous "Ain't No Greens in Harlem" (the latter being featured on Episode #3 of the podcast). I'll defer to Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks profile of the group for further info on the group.
By the time the Vibrations signed to Gamble & Huff's Chess-distributed Neptune concern in 1969, the writing-production duo had made quite a name for themselves with records on Jerry Butler, the Sweet Inspirations and the Soul Survivors, a blue-eyed act that had taken "Expressway to Your Heart" into the upper reaches of the pop and R&B charts (and into the annals of oldies radio) in 1967. One of the group's three singles on Neptune was a remake of "Expressway." Their version's dramatic departure from the original hit's arrangement probably doomed the single right away, airplay and sales-wise, but it's a very strong record in its own right. The groove is slower, the horn charts are very dramatic and the vocals are spot-on. In many ways the record is clearly a part of the sonic foundation on which Gamble & Huff would build their '70s soul empire, the sounds of which would prove to form an expressway as well - to Gamble & Huff's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.