Latest incarnation of vocal legends dust off their doo-wop and swing their hips on record for the first time in more than three decades.
It’s a strange tradition for bands to carry on with no original members in their ranks, yet there’s something special about it when it comes to the likes of this ensemble whose harmony front has always been more important then the singers’ personality. Carl Gardner, the last founding Coaster, one who was in the line-up for 50 years, from their 1955 start, died in 2011 but enrolled three vocalists out of the four comprising the group now. Such a blessed casting seems to have emboldened the quartet to embark on a new album enterprise, a covers set that sees them updating the familiar sound to the ’60s, and even ’70s, template and embracing some unusual choices.
Thus, the concept-creating bookends of “All I Have To Do Is Dream” and “Dream Baby” shape a twangy framework to house the inspired take on EAGLES’ “Lyin’ Eyes” as if to deliberately countrify the aural picture. Glossier yet, “Turn Back The Hands Of Time” aligns itself to the Philly mirrorball flashes and “Just My Imagination” loses its bluesy drive to the silkiness. Yet the band’s classic gritty sound is never far, and they pin THE CAPITOLS’ “Cool Jerk” to the same rhythm-and-blues board where “Young Blood” hangs, handclaps and all, while “If I Had A Hammer” receives a highly spiritual, call-and-response reading.
Elsewhere, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” finds a finely textured polyphony in the Otis’ optimism, but if “Don’t Be Cruel” reclaims black folk’s jive from white cats, the rocking “Twistin’ The Night Away” or the dynamics-testing “Shout” keep faithful to the originals’ zest for the most part. Still, “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love Babe” strikes a perfect balance between the tinsel smirk and the tonsil work and ultimately shows that there’s a lot of life in the old franchise, so it makes a lot of sense to carry on coasting.