Greatest Slow Jams
Review by David Bowling
The Dramatics formed during 1962 and were constants on the rhythm & blues charts during the 1970s. While Ron Banks and Lenny Mayes are deceased; L. J. Reynolds, Willie Ford, and Winzell Kelly are still with the group. They may not come immediately to mind when thinking of 1970’s music but their time with the Volt label, a subsidiary of Stax, produced some of the better soul music the early 1970s.
The Dramatics have now returned as a part of the “Slow Jams” series of releases, which is dedicated to rhythm & blues love songs. Greatest Slow Jams gathers eight classic tracks from their Volt period, adds three more from the 1970s, and an odd L. J. Reynolds solo track from 1985.
The weakness of such an approach is the elimination of their up-tempo material, including “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get,” “Get Up And Get Down,” and “Fell For You;” all of which remain some of their best songs. On the other hand, what is here is very good and perfect for a romantic evening around a blazing fire.
THE Stax label always had more of an edge than many of their contemporaries including Motown. While the vocals are of the smooth soul variety; the instrumental backing prevents the songs from being repetitive. Some are piano based; others have a prominent guitar, and some feature strings. It is this variety that sets the music of The Dramatics apart from a lot of what was being issued during the 1970s.
Songs such as “Toast To The Fool,” “Thank You For Your Love,” “Hey You Get Off My Mountain,” and their biggest hit “In The Rain” were all smooth performances that hold up well. When the group left Stax, the quality of their material and their commercial success began to suffer.
The Dramatics are not usually recognized as a top tier vocal group but when they were good, they were very good. It may be a little stretch to fill an entire album with slower material but there are some nuggets to be found here.