The Manhattans - I Kinda Miss You - the Anthology 1973-1987

The Manhattans
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The Manhattans - I Kinda Miss You - the Anthology 1973-1987

They’re often initially overlooked in retrospectives of 1970s and 80s R&B music, but then there is the "oh yeah" moment. And, in some ways, that epitomizes the essence of The Manhattans' career: understated but consistently impactful. An honest 20/20 backward view reveals that that group was one of the most popular and enduring acts of the era, continuously charting during a fifteen years on Columbia Records and creating an enviable catalog that still sounds great three and four decades later. It is that successful period of the group’s history that is covered in the exquisitely compiled 2-disc collection, I Kinda Miss You – The Anthology 1973-1987, newly released on Soul Music Records.

The Manhattans - I Kinda Miss You - the Anthology 1973-1987

They’re often initially overlooked in retrospectives of 1970s and 80s R&B music, but then there is the "oh yeah" moment. And, in some ways, that epitomizes the essence of The Manhattans' career: understated but consistently impactful. An honest 20/20 backward view reveals that that group was one of the most popular and enduring acts of the era, continuously charting during a fifteen years on Columbia Records and creating an enviable catalog that still sounds great three and four decades later. It is that successful period of the group’s history that is covered in the exquisitely compiled 2-disc collection, I Kinda Miss You – The Anthology 1973-1987, newly released on Soul Music Records.

The Manhattans originally formed more than a decade before their signing by Columbia, and landed several middling chart songs. But it was the hiring of 21 year old singer Gerald Alston, who joined the group after the tragic illness of lead singer George Smith, that was the pivotal piece that turned the talented quintet into one of the all time greats soul groups.

Ironically, while the careers of many of the great traditional soul groups like The Stylistics and Blue Magic began to wane as the dance era of the late 1970s emerged, The Manhattans rose to fame with a sound and approach that completely went against the grain of popular music. Nowhere was this more evident than on their trademark 1976 song, “Kiss and Say Goodbye,” a languid ballad with a clear country music influence, that shot to number one on the charts at a time when disco ruled the airwaves. And over the next decade it was fairly traditional slow songs about love and infidelity that became the calling cards for the Manhattans, even as radio vacillated through periods of disco, funk, electronics and rap.

I Kinda Miss You tracks the Columbia years chronologically, and that view sheds light on the changes, sometimes subtle, that the group went through over the years. During their early albums recorded in Philadelphia, the Manhattans’ albums bore the influence of Philly stalwart Bobby Martin, who steered production that was both robust and restrained, never letting the beat or the arrangement outshine the group’s vocals. And that formula led to such great ballads as “Hurt,” “It Feels So Good To Be Loved So Bad,” “We Never Danced To A Love Song,” and “Am I Losing You.” There was also more than a touch of country that uniquely ran through many of their songs of this period, perhaps the most explicit of which was the delightful, underappreciated “Here Comes The Hurt Again.”

Disc Two shows the group’s move from Philly to Chicago and producer Leo Graham (Champaign, Tyrone Davis), who smoothed out their sound even further, providing hits like the top 5 “Shining Star,” and “I’ll Never Find Another,” but sometimes dulling the edges too much. As important as Alston’s wonderful leads were during the Philly period, they became the essential life of the songs under Graham’s muted backdrops. And as the decade wore on, The Manhattans moved from producer to producer, landing more hits like “Crazy” and “You Send Me,” before finishing with the terrific, Bobby Womack-produced  Back To Basics, a fitting coda for this memorable, productive period of music.

All that is captured in the 35 well-chosen songs on I Kinda Miss You, a collection that has no weak spots and that showcases just what a singular lead singer Gerald Alston was; he entered The Manhattans as a college kid with a raw, Sam Cooke-influenced tenor voice, and developed into one of the great soul singers of his generation.  Just as importantly, this collection reminds us of the special, off-the-beaten-path act the Manhattans became, paving a unique road to success and giving fans of love songs a wonderful oasis at a time when much of the rest of the music world was shaking it in the clubs. Highly Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 

 
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