New York's Finest
Earl Lewis & The Channels
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One of New York's finest early doo wop groups' early sides from 1956 to 1961 first recorded on Whirling Disc, Fury, and Port Records. Only two Gone releases (from 1957-1958) are missing — must be a licensing problem. The Channels were not only unique vocally, Earl Lewis' leads rank up there and Clifton Wright's bass expressions gets A's for creativity; but if you didn't know the Channels were five African-Americans you could only guess at their ethnicity. As Eddie Levert (the O'Jays) once said about the song "Wildflower" the first time he heard it: "I thought it was a white guy trying to do a black thing but discovered it was a black guy (Donny Gerrard, an African-American, was Skylark's lead singer) doing a white thing." The Channels deliver buttery, stuttering doo wop at its best — check out "I Really Love You," "Flames in My Heart," or "The Gleam in Your Eyes"; they were also exquisite at jump R&B, i.e., "What Do You Do" and "My Loving Baby." Lewis wrote many of these tracks only to find producer/record label owner Bobby Robinson's name listed as co-writer when the record came out. Such is music, such is life. Essential for doo wop lovers.