Their voices have been the cream of Black radio for over 40 years. Under the seductive moniker, The Whispers, Marcus Hutson, Nicholas Caldwell, Leaveil Degree and lead singing twins Walter and Wallace Scott, have entertained delighted audiences through 27 albums, 40 charted hits and innumerable rather acrobatic live performances.
Now in the twilight of their careers, this newly released CD and DVD, The Whispers LIVE from Las Vegas, is a fitting showcase for the quintet's trademark mid-tempo grooves and a glorious benchmark for a recording career long on hard work and cyclical success. Fans will be enchanted to hear their favorite Whispers tunes delivered live with all the fire and silk they've come to expect from this perennial favorite of the golden circuit. For the uninitiated...well after so many years of consistent airplay, one would be hard pressed to be unexposed to The Whispers' magic. Even if you believe you have only the vaguest notion of The Whispers' romantic music, ten minutes into this solid set will find you singing along to familiar tunes. In no time, you'll be kicking yourself for being unaware of how many favorite quiet storms sonnets are actually Whispers classics. But you shouldn't feel too bad; the Whispers have been cooking on simmer for two generations, only coming to a full, raging boil a few times in their enviably sustained career.
Unlike so many veteran acts born in the 60s and 70s, The Whispers have proven a thoroughbred with hit singles in almost every decade since their auspicious debut in 1964 with Dore Records. While most of their 60s and early 70s hits were mild regional West coast hits for the Dore, Soul Clock and Janus labels, their 1970's work with Soul Train and Solar Records found them hitting their stride with hits like their disco cover of Bread's "Make It With You," "One For The Money (Pt.1)," "Lets Go All The Way," "Chocolate Girl," "I Only Meant To Wet My Feet" and my personal favorite "Olivia (Lost and Turned Out)."
Despite gaining national fame and racking up several gold albums, platinum success eluded the group until 1980 with The Whispers. The self-titled album sported the lovely "Lady," the Donny Hathaway tribute "Song for Donny" and their biggest crossover hit to date, the #1 Billboard R&B and Dance hit, "And The Beat Goes On." The eighties R&B charts were littered with successful Whisper jams including: "Tonight," "Contagious," "It's A Love Thing," "Keep On Lovin' Me" and the cognac-soaked "In The Mood."
Fulfilling the prophecy of their next platinum album title, 1987's Just Gets Better With Time knocked out fans with the cool, matter-of-fact title-track and the Babyface-penned smash "Rock Steady," providing the group with their second #1 R&B hit. The group had more platinum success in the early 90's with such hit singles as "Innocent," "My Heart, Your Heart," "Is It Good to You" and a critically-acclaimed album of Babyface tunes for Capitol Records in 1997, before moving into the independent label scene with their recent, most personal studio album, For Your Ears Only.
LIVE from Las Vegas smartly mines most of its rich material from those 1980's and early 90s gems, only occasionally tip-toeing to their 70s catalog with "Chocolate Girl" and "I Only Meant to Wet My Feet." New material is represented only through their last single, the smooth "Butta." Machine tight horn and rhythm sections keeps the album spryly moving through a series of mid-tempo R&B grooves. As enjoyable and effective as those hits are, LIVE is at its finest when it slows the pace and allows listeners to enjoy the sumptuous tenor harmonies on "In the Mood," "Welcome into My Dream" and most notably on the ear-orgasm, "Say Yes." Refined with age and spit-shined by time, these brothers are in top vocal form throughout, not a sour note to be heard. The music direction is crisp and what little concert chatter there is only adds to this warm, live experience.
If I have any complaints at all, it's that the engineering could have been a touch better so that listeners could more cleanly hear the separation of The Whispers sweet, highly nuanced harmonies and that killer band whenever all those sonic elements are in full swing. I also wish my sad streetwalker, "Olivia," was given a more extended play. In other words, I just wanted more of what makes the Whispers one of the most beloved acts in R&B history. These gentlemen may not be staging the human pyramids and flying into cartwheels with ease as they did in their storied concert history, but they truly have just gotten better with time. Fans and readers unfamiliar with this enduring quintet should just "Say Yes" to this incredible gift. Highly recommended
By L. Michael Gipson