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Taking a New Step

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Album Review

The Vibrations were a smooth harmonizing R&B group in the tradition of the Temptations, the Stylistics, and the Delfonics; in the 1960s they scored a few regional chart hits on the West Coast (one of which, "Peanut Butter," was released under the group name the Marathons), but never landed the national hit they sought. The group cut an album in 1972 (released in the United States on Mandala and in the U.K. on RCA) on the strength of the single "Wind Up Toy," and the set — reissued in 2002 with a shuffled track lineup as Taking a New Step — documents a group with fine chops and a good store of imagination to go along with them. However, the Vibrations didn't seem to take to psychedelia or more rock-oriented productions with the same élan as, say, the Temptations; "topical" numbers such as "Run for Your Life" and "The Man" don't work especially well, while "Ain't No Greens in Harlem" could almost pass for a mean-spirited parody of '70s R&B. Too bad, since "Wind Up Toy" and "Man Overboard" make it clear they had a way with a romantic tune, while the Allman Brothers Band cover "Midnight Rider" and the New Orleans-flavored "Zazoo" proved they had the chops to take their sound in a number of other interesting directions. Soul obsessives will find a lot to like here, but listeners with broader interests will probably program their CD players to skip about half of these tracks should they give this disc a second spin.


Formed: 1960 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Though never major hitmakers, the Los Angeles-based Vibrations were consistent performers through the '60s. The lineup included James Johnson, Carl Fisher, Richard Owens, Dave Govan, and Don Bradley. They began recording as the Jayhawks, then scored a couple of novelty hits performing as the Marathons. Neither "The Watusi" nor "Peanut Butter" were particularly triumphant, but each managed to chart in both the R&B and pop markets. When they became the Vibrations in 1964, they gradually turned to more...
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Taking a New Step, The Vibrations
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