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First Class - Going First Class (LP)

First Class - Going First Class (LP)

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Genre: soul
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Going First Class
Company: All Platinum
Catalog: AP 3018
Year: 1976
Country/State: Baltimore, Maryland
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: small drill whole top right corner
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6176
Price: $25.00

First off, don't confuse this Baltimore, Maryland-based soul quartet with the better known UK pop band of 'Beach Baby' fame (besides that other group actually went by the name 'The First Class').

Originally known as The Mandells, by the early 1970s Harold Bell III, Fred Brown, Gary Jones, Sylvester Redditt, and Tony Yarborough had begun to enjoy modest success on Baltimore's club circuit. Under the tutelage of managers Rod Armstrong and Ernie Donaldson they made their recording debut with a 1973 single on the small Washington, D.C.Thereway label:

- 1973's 'What Is Life (Part 1)' b/w 'What Is Life (Part 1)' (Thereway catalog number R13378A/B)

1974 found them signed to the nationally distributed Today label and the release of a sophomore 45:

- 1974's 'What About Me' b/w 'Outside Your World (Part 1)' (Today catalog number T-1528)

Next up were a pair of singles for Ebony Sounds:

- 1975's 'The Beginning of the End' b/w 'It's Never Too Late' (Ebony Sounds catalog ES 187-N)
- 1975's 'You Don't Know What You're Doing' b/w 'You Come Up Always Wanting To Break Up' (Ebony Sounds catalog ES 188-N)

left to right: Bell - Yarborough - Brown - Reddiitt

The group's corporate wanderings continued and in 1977 they found themselves signed to Sylvia Robinson's New Jersey-based All Platinum label where they finally were given an opportunity to record an album. Produced by Tommy Keith (who also wrote, or co-wrote all seven tracks), "Going First Class" had its moments. Vocally these guys were blessed with a first rate pair of lead singers in Bell and Yarborough. Bell had one one of soul's brightest tenors; to my ears he had one of those voices that just sounded happy and upbeat. Yarborough was no slouch either. Unfortunately, none of the members wrote material so like many other soul groups First Class were totally dependent on outside material. That lack of control was apparently on the album which included a disproportionate number of throwaway dance tunes ('This Is It' and 'Lady of the Evening'). The thing is, when they were given the right material and the right arrangements, these guys were as good as any number of mega sellers ... doubt that statement then I'd suggest you check out their single 'Me and My Gemini'.

- While I'd love to fawn over 'This Is It', to my ears the song offered up a pedestrian and forgettable slice of mid-1970s dance music. The group's performance was rather faceless and uninspired. Even worse, stretched out over six minutes the first half of the song was devoted to the title track being repeated over and over and over, while the second half showcased an extended, highly orchestrated, and equally forgettable instrumental segment. Still, as a slice of mindless fun it was easy to see why the track was tapped as a single. The 'that's it' comment at the end of the song always makes me smile ... rating: ** stars
- Showcasing Bell's likable lead vocals, the breezy 'Filled with Desire' was one of the album's most commercial tracks, though the killer hook was largely lost amidst Sammy Lowe and Mike Terry's overwhelming orchestration. The song would have worked much better with a stripped down backing arrangement. rating: *** stars
- The goofy song title (talk 'bout '70s new age) wasn't very promising, nor was Fred Brown's campy baritone opening spoken word vamp ... and then 'Me and My Gemini' blossomed into an unexpected classic soul number. Showcasing a near perfect melody, an uplifting lyric on soldiering through tough times, and some glistening vocal harmonies, this one would have made The O'Jays proud. If anyone cared, Marc Horowitz's steel guitar (!) and Frank Prescod's hyperactive bass were the icing on the cake. My pick for standout performance. A wonderful single that should have been a massive seller !!! rating: ***** stars
- 'Lady of the Evening' started out as a heavily orchestrated mid-tempo number that unexpectedly took a turn into faceless, largely instrumental disco territory. Completely forgettable. rating: ** stars
- ''I've Got You' was an up tempo, happy feet track showcasing some extremely cheesy Sammy Lowe synthesizers. rating: *** stars
- A breezy mid-tempo number, 'Foxy Lady' (no it wasn't a cover of the Hendrix tune) was pleasant, if a bit shallow in the lyric department. Imagine a second tier Marvin Gaye song and you'd have a feel for this one. rating: *** stars
- Another ballad, 'Let's Make Love' saw Bell and Redditt sharing lead vocal duties, the slightly bluesy results being one of the better performances on the album. rating: *** stars

The album spun off a pair of singles:

- 1976's 'Me and My Gemini (Part 1)' b/w 'Me and My Gemini (Part 2) (All Platinum catalog number AP 2365)
- 1977's 'This Is It' b/w 'Filled with Desire' (All Platinum catalog number AP 2368)

"Going First Class" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) This Is It (Tommy Keith - Frank Prescod) - 6:27
2.) Filled with Desire (Tommy Keith - Al Goodman) - 3:46
3.) Me and My Gemini (Tommy Keith - Walter Morris) - 6:25

(side 2)
1.) Lady of the Evening (Tommy Keith) - 5:28
2.) I've Got You (Tommy Keith) - 3:36
3.) Foxy Lady (Tommy Keith - Billy Brown) - 4:08
4.) Let's Make Love (Tommy Keith) - 4:08
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