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Esquires - Get On Up and Get Away

Esquires - Get On Up and Get Away

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Genre: soul
Rating: 4 stars ****
Title:  Get On Up and Get Away
Company: Bunky
Catalog: BS 300
Year: 1968
Country/State: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: --
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 248
Price: $40.00

Formed in 1957, The Esquires were initially a family enterprise, showcasing the talents of siblings
Alvis Moorer, Betty Moorer, and Gilbert Moorer. The trio started as classic Milwaukee-based doo-woopers, performing at school dances and parties. In 1960 they expanded to a four piece with the addition of former The Seven Sounds front man Harvey Scales. Scales was in turn replaced by Sam Pace. Ironically, the groups debut came on the back of sister Betty who had signed a recording contract with the small local Cuca label, resulting in a couple of instantly obscure singles:

- 1962's 'Long Hot Summer' b/w 'Voo Doo Waltz' (Cuca catalog number 1134)

In 1965 Betty left for a solo career and was replaced by Shawn Taylor. At that point the group seemingly got serious about their musical careers, moving away from their doo-wop roots to writing more contemporary soul-influenced material.

Relocating to Chicago, in 1966 the quartet auditioned for Curtis Mayfield's Windy C label, but were turned down (reportedly because they sounded very much like The Impressions. Other rejections followed but they finally got a break when they submitted a pair of demos ('Listen To Me', and 'Get On Up') to label owner/producer Bill "Bunky" Sheppard. Sheppard liked the material and auditioned the group, subsequently signing them to his newly formed Bunky label where they released a string of five singles over the next two years:

- 1967's 'Get On Up' b/w 'Listen To Me' (Bunky catalog number 7750) # 11 pop; # 3 R&B
- 1967's 'And Get Away' b/w 'Everybody's Laughing' (Bunky catalog number 7752) pop # 22; R&B
- 1968's 'You Say' b/w 'State Fair' (Bunky catalog number 7753 # 126 pop; # 41 R&B
- 1968's 'Why Can't I Stop' b/w 'The Feeling's Gone' (Bunky catalog number 7755) # 48 pop
- 1968's 'I Know I Can' b/w 'How Could It Be' (Bunky catalog number 7756)

With one exception, the Bunky catalog specialized in singles. The exception was 1968's "Get On Up and Get Away". The only LP Bunky ever released, the collection featured a mixture of earlier singles and previously unreleased studio material. In addition to five tracks from the group's previous Bunky singles, the collection included five new studio tracks ('How Was I To Know', a cover of The Rascals 'Groovin'', 'My Sweet Baby', 'No Doubt About It', and 'Woman'). The final two tracks 'When I'm Ready'' and 'Things Won't Be the Same' were actually Millard Edwards singles that had been recorded in 1965 and 1966 for the small Tou-Sea label and Sheppard's Constellation label. I'm guessing the tracks were included on the album since The Esquires had provided backing vocals on the songs. Interestingly, Edwards was brought in to provide bass counterpart vocals on their first two Bunky singles. Coincidently, with manager Sheppard and the rest of the group increasingly unhappy with Taylor's work ethic (he'd apparently been late for several shows), Edwards was brought in to replace Taylor.) Largely written by Gilbert (though Sheppard was credited as co-writer on several tracks), most of the material showcased Gilbert's pleasant falsetto lead vocals. As good as Gilbert was, the material was really notable for the distinct doo-wop flavor in the group's harmony work (no surprise given their roots). The other highlight came in the form of arranger Thomas Washington's (aka Tom Tom) fantastic work with the group. Washington gave the material a bright and highly commercial tinge.

performance photo left to right:
Sam Pace, Millard Edwards, Alvis Moorer and Gilbert Moorer

- Seriously, even though it was patterned after their earlier hit 'Get On Up' (complete with Millard Edward bass counterpoint vocals), mid-1960s soul just didn't get much better than 'And Get Away'. A sweat inducing dance track, if this one didn't make you shake your money maker, then you needed to check your pulse since there was a good chance you were dead. Picture a really good Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions song with The Temptations' Melvin Franklin handling the bass lines and you'd have a feel for this song's major charm ... get up and get away, get up and get away ... rating: ***** stars
- It's hard to believe 'Listen to Me' was relegated to the 'B' side of their debut single. While the track featured a much tougher soul edge, there was no denying it's commercial sheen. Along with some tight horn charts, the song showcased the group's great call and response vocals throughout and the song and had a couple of simply to-die-for hooks embedded in the arrangement, including the gravel-stuck-in-his throat lead vocal. rating: **** stars
- One of the previously unreleased efforts, the original 'How Was I To Know' slowed things down, spotlighting Gilbert's wonderful falsetto. To my ears Gilbert's vocal and the arrangement have always reminded me a bit of a Curtis Mayfield and the Impression song. The funny thing about this one was the dysfunctional horn arrangement. If you listen closely you can hear a couple of truly weird charts in the arrangement. Still, fun to hear. rating: **** stars
- With Alvis taking a rare lead vocal, the group's cover of The Rascals' 'Groovin'' was a major surprise. Technically it wasn't a major departure from the original arrangement, but whereas Felix Cavaliere and company turned in a blue-eyed soul version of the song, The Esquires turned in the real soul thing. I hate to say it, but at much as I love The Rascals, in a head-to-head competition I' be inclined to give the edge to The Esquires' cover. Always wondered if Moorer brothers Charles and Perry provided the hypnotic horns ... rating: **** stars
- Underscoring the group's best attributes, including a gorgeous melody; wonderful harmony vocals, some killer horns, and an even better bass line, 'Everybody's Laughing' was an amazing ballad that should have been a massive hit for the group. How Bunky missed releasing it as a single is a complete mystery. rating: **** stars
- One of the group's most upbeat and dance ready numbers, 'How Could It Be' had a bass line that was impossible to ignore. Insidiously catchy, you were again left to wonder how this thing got relegated to the flip side of their fifth single. It should have been the hit side and the only complaint is the thing is just way too short. How could you fade the song out when they started singing "the woman was cold to me, oh so cold to me ..." ? Seriously, five star material here. rating: ***** stars
- A classic slice of Chicago soul, 'Get On Up' was also a classic dance number with an instantly ear grabbing melody and those sly references to a slew of '60s dance styles. As good as the song was, this was one track where producer Sheppard earned his keep. In this case Sheppard deserved credit for bringing in former Sheppard's singer Millard Edwards to provide the bass counterpart vocals. rating: ***** stars
- The first disappointment, 'My Sweet Baby' was a nice enough ballad, but lacked the magic most of Gilbert Moorer's compositions had. Listening to it again, it's just a touch to MOR for its own good. Nice backing harmonies throughout. rating: *** stars
- One of the few group collaborations, propelled Gilbert's crystal clear falsetto, the ballad 'No Doubt About It' had a distinctive Impressions vibe to it. Another track that would have made a killer single. rating: **** stars
- Judging by the deeper voice, I'm guessing Alvis was featured on 'Woman'. A breezy, mid-tempo number, the song lacked the sheen and immediately commercial appeal of the rest of the catalog, though the percussion and horns remained first-rate. rating: ** stars
- 'When I'm Ready' was the first of two Millard Edwards solo sides with The Esquires on backup. In this case it was a 'B' side released by the small Tou-Sea label (catalog number 128). The song was certainly nice enough, but just didn't have the sound, or feel of an Esquires tune. rating: *** stars- As mentioned, ''Things Won't Be the Same' was actually a Millard Edwards solo number with The Esquires on backing vocals (1965's Constellation catalog number 170). Don't let that distract you since this one's another album highlight. On this breezy number, Edwards tough, gritty voice sounded a bit like Ray Charles. Couple with great horns, crisp drumming, and a killer bass line, the result was another five star performance. Wonder what else Edwards recorded .... rating: ***** stars
All hyperbole aside, this is one of the best soul albums in my collection. Well worth finding !!!

"Get On Up and Get Ready" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) And Get Away (Gilbert Moorer - Bill Sheppard) - 2:46
2.) Listen To Me (Gilbert Moorer - Bill Sheppard) - 2:25
3.) How Was I To Know (Gilbert Moorer) - 2:00
4.) Groovin' (Felix Cavaliere - Ed Brigatti) - 2:25
5.) Everybody's Laughing (Gilbert Moorer - Bill Sheppard - Millard Edwards) - 2:45
6.) How Could It Be (Gilbert Moorer) - 2:21

(side 2)
1.) Get On Up (Gilbert Moorer - Bill Sheppard) - 2:25
2.) My Sweet Baby (Gilbert Moorer) - 2:45
3.) No Doubt About It (Gilbert Moorer - Sam Price - Alvis Moorer) - 2:35
4.) Woman (A. Russel - O.C. Perkins) - 2:20
5.) When I'm Ready (Millard Edwards - Bill Sheppard) - 2:20
6.) Things Won't Be the Same (Charles Smith - Calvin Edwards) - 2:12

With a series of personnel changes (Edwards left in 1970 and was replaced by Shawn Taylor, whom he'd previously replaced), the group continued to record through the mid-1980s, though their discography becomes a mess.
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