Swinging vocal harmony: Boswell Sisters, Ravens, Flamingos
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Grabbing a bit of a reply to a Live Journal comment and cribbing some quotes from The All Music Guide.
Definitely the most talented and arguably the all-around best jazz vocal group of all time, the Boswell Sisters parlayed their New Orleans upbringing into a swinging delivery that featured not only impossibly close harmonies, but countless maneuvers of vocal gymnastics rarely equaled on record.
Connee and her sisters were a group in the 20s and early 30s. Connee wrote the arrangements and they had a swinging hot jazz sound you'll never hear in any other vocal harmony group. They are one of the few musical people I collected redundantly: (back when I had the money) I'd buy an import disc for just one cut I didn't already own.
The Ravens were among the pioneering post-World War II R&B groups, and also among the earliest R&B groups named for birds. In both their musicality and their nomenclature*, they influenced two generations of performers that followed, as well as sold lots of records in the process.
Have you ever read Nick Tosches' The Unsung Heroes of Rock & Roll? He doesn't mention The Ravens but they'd fit right in. Tosches talks much about the 40s and early 50s musicians that too anyone familiar with the beginnings of rock dovetail perfectly into the sizzle of early rock'n'roll but will never be in the list of rock musicians. The Ravens pre-dated doo-wooop but had much to do with its sound and the *bird names. In-between big band swing and R&B is jump blues, a wonderfully lively, sexy music. The Ravens are thevocal group of that period.
Both prolific and seminal in their influence and impact, the Flamingos may have been the greatest harmonizing vocal ensemble ever, and were certainly among the premier units of the doo wop/R&B era.
Again, I own one CD because it has their best performance of one song. Their playfulness, outrageousness and vocal gifts put them clearly above even the next best vocal harmony groups of the doo-wop era.