Wednesday, April 4, 2012

... and In The Background (Pt 1)

Have you ever wondered who the female chorus was that backed up Mary Wells on "My Guy" ("what you'd say?"... "tell me more") or the great almost-operatic crescendo of voices on The Four Tops' records? Who sang with Frank Sinatra on his classic hit "That's Life"?

These songs, among many others, were all augmented by the backup singer or group. They sing in harmony with the lead vocalist, other backing or backup singers, or alone, but not singing the lead There are notable exceptions).

In bands or groups, sometimes the members alternate between singing lead or backup (The Temptations, The Beatles, and Three Dog Night, for example).

Phil Spector (yes, the one that's now behind bars ...) and Brian Wilson (of The Beach Boys) were two pop/rock music pioneers with backup vocals-Spector added lavish orchestration to create a bombastic "Wall of Sound"-Wilson composed some of the most intricate vocal harmonies in pop music.

In the recording studio, some lead singers choose to create their own backing vocals (Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Neil Sedaka, and Gene Pitney are examples).

The Andantes were a female session singing group on Motown during the 1960s. The trio of Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps sang backup vocals on over 10,000 (!) recordings by virtually every major (and minor) act on the label. They're the female chorus you hear on "My Guy" and that fantastic crescendo of soaring voices prominently featured on all of The Four Tops' Holland-Dozier-Holland written/produced hits.

In addition to "My Guy", you'll hear them on "Baby I Need Your Loving", "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)", "Reach Out, I'll Be There", "Ask The Lonely", "Standing In The Shadows Of Love", "Bernadette", (They did the great background vocals on this in one take!) and others by the Tops.

They're featured on "Laughing Boy" and other songs by Mary Wells, "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You" and other songs by Marvin Gaye, "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" by Jimmy Ruffin, and "Don't Mess With Bill" by The Marvelettes (They were use to overdub and "smooth out" the group's background vocals; the producers did this without the Marvelettes' knowledge. The final Marvelettes album, "The Return Of The Marvelettes", was actually recorded by Marvelette lead singer Wanda Young with The Andantes ).

more coming in Pt. 2 tomorrow so ... stay tuned ...

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