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Voice Masters: The Charioteers

The Charioteers

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Album Review

This is the very first CD to feature the 1930-1940's vocal group the Charioteers. The Best of the Charioteers (2003) presents two-dozen tracks spanning over a decade during their stint with Columbia, and the related Vocalion and Okeh labels. The quintet's sublime blend was led by Billy Williams (tenor), who would go on to have a well-received solo career as well. In addition to the sides featured on this compilation, the Charioteers would also become known for backing up other pop vocalists such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. The group was promoted to tap into the success of the Ink Spots, who were on the rival Decca Records label. While not compiled extensively in this collection, the Charioteers rich musical heritage also includes a significant and concurrently successful stint on the gospel circuit. One listen will reveal the profound influence that these sides had as definite precursors to both 1950's doo wop and ultimately modern R&B. The scope of material ranges from the fun, uptempo romps "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans"; the talkin' blues "Open the Door, Richard"; the chuggin' be-bop of "Oooh! Look-a-There, Ain't She Pretty?"; to the languid balladry of "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," "We'll Meet Again," and the heartfelt "A Kiss and a Rose." The remastered sound of these recordings is also worth mentioning as the earliest sides were transcribed from actual 78 rpm records. However, such care was taken that listeners would be hard pressed to tell. The Best Of The Charioteers is the perfect companion to Ride Red Ride (1996) which includes 20 gospel and sacred sides from these masterful pop vocalists.


Formed: 1930 in Wilberforce College, OH

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s

Gospel purists may feel that what was done to the Charioteers is something like trying to turn a chariot into a Corvette. The black gospel group, newly transformed into a vocal pop group by enterprising record company executives, failed to turn the desired commercial quarter with the momentum of the Ink Spots. An early vehicle for lead tenor Billy Williams, who would have an even more successful career on his own, the Charioteers left behind a respectable recorded legacy nonetheless in both the gospel...
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Voice Masters: The Charioteers, The Charioteers
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