Stars in their Cleveland hometown, unknown elsewhere (except for the minor national hit "It's Cold Outside"), the Choir played an accomplished, if a bit anachronistic, British Invasion-influenced pop/rock in the late '60s. The Mersey-mod hybrid "It's Cold Outside" went to number one in Cleveland in 1967. The group was then picked up by Roulette, but a couple of subsequent singles were subject to inappropriate material and over-production, and stiffed. Obscure and unissued material by the Choir is beginning to appear on CD, and reveals them branching out from power-pop to encompass progressive sounds as they changed personnel in the late '60s. Members of the group later played in the Raspberries, and the Choir is still fondly remembered in Cleveland for their strong and melodic original material.
This 18-song CD is the first official compilation of their work that covers their entire career, from 1966 to 1969. As the group cut only a few singles during their lifetime, most of this is previously unissued, culled from their generous vault of demos. Much anticipated by 1960s collectors, it's frankly a bit of a disappointment, despite a fair number of highlights. The Americanized mod-Merseybeat of "It's Cold Outside" is delightful; other originals like "I'd Rather You Leave Me" and "Don't Change Your Mind" show similarly irresistible harmony vocals, crafting a catchy '60s pop-rock sound that avoids sappiness. The final tracks, cut in 1969 after several personnel changes, have slightly updated progressive rock influences, but retain a core of smart pop-rock hooks. Some of the demos, though, are a bit weak, particularly the soul-rockish ones from 1968. Most crucially, though, it fails to include a number of fine previously available tracks, like the version of the beautiful ballad "Treeberry" that was briefly available on a Bomp EP (the sketchy acoustic demo here pales by comparison), and several moody numbers from the 1969 lineup (also available for a time on a cassette-only reissue in the 1980s). The crunchy Stones-ish B-side of "It's Cold Outside," "I'm Going Home," is also inexplicably missing. Perhaps this is because the compilers made every effort to include material from the original master tapes and couldn't locate the masters for those tracks. It's still not a bad compilation for '60s collectors, but it could have been better.
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