The best of the five vocal-group albums recently released by Ambient Sound Records is the Jive Five's "Here We Are." It fulfills the new company's goal of reviving the classic group sound without altering the human and organic feel of the best doo-wop.
"Here We Are" shows the same stylistic flexibility that led the Jive Five to score '60s chart successes in both vocal group ("My True Story") and pop-soul styles ("I'm a Happy Man"). Most important, the Jive Five's imaginative vocal arrangements and Eugene Pitt's intimate lead vocals show the band's ties to a more innocent past and its desire for a more viable artistic future.
On "Magic Maker, Music Maker," there's something startlingly contemporary and atmospheric in their intricate vocal interplay (featuring the Chantels) and in their sanctified delivery that renders the song gloriously transcendent of time and style.
When they handle something modern like Steely Dan's "Hey Nineteen," their nostalgia-dripping four-part harmonies add extra emotional resonance to the song's adolescent remembrance. The group rocks, too. Both "Hey Sam" and "He's Just a Lucky Man" are fast boppers. with haunting sax, pounding piano and percolating voices.
The star is Eugene Pitt, whose rich, romantic voice finds a place in every song to echo emotional cries from our past.
ON RECORD, ON STAGE
THE ALBUM -- Here We Are (Ambient SFZ37717).
THE SHOW -- Pitt and the Jive Five with Ben E. King, Mary Wells, the Skyliners, the Shirelles and the Velons, Saturday at 8 at Constitution Hall.