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Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Girl Group Sound Spectacular

Girls no more, these women still rock out! What a night it was at BB King's NYC!

Nine women took to the stage with a full orchestra (keyboards, guitars, sax, trumpets, percussion), a bevy of back-up girls and, against that full-volume background, belted out their songs as powerfully as ever in an electrifying evening of great music and memories. It wasn't just a night of nostalgia, however, but a reminder of what solid songwriting, arrangements, instrumentation and vibrant vocals are capable of. These women need no auto-tuning to say the very least. And they have long mastered the art of the diva hand gestures!

Barbara Harris of The Toys opened the act, still able to energetically shake a tail feather. She opened with the group's top-ten pop hit, "Attack," followed by "Can't Get Enough of You, Baby." Ms Harris explained this cult phenom was not a '60s hit for The Toys but was later one for ? and the Mysterians. Harris moved on, then, to "May My Heart Be Cast into Stone" before ending her set with The Toys' smash sensation, "Lover's Concerto."

Beverly Warren wonderfully took over lead vocal from the late Ellie Greenwich, whom she praised as "manager, mentor and friend." Her set included classics "What a Guy" and "He's the Kind of Boy You Can't Forget."

Described by the dj/announcer with the words "There's nothing scarier than a Catholic school girl from Brooklyn," Nanette Licari appeared to belt out "Whenever a Teenager Cries." What? No "Captain of the Ship"?! I was hoping Ms Reparata and the Delrons would do a little more.

But, no, we were off with Louise Murray of The Jaynettes, electrifying with "perhaps the first girl-group song," "Lonely Nights" (1955, recorded under the girl-group name The Hearts) before she got to the group's biggest hit in 1963, "Sally Go Round the Roses." This lovely, lanky woman, now age 74, appeared in eyeglasses, a shimmery flapper-style gown, giant daisy in her hair and chandelier earrings! What a voice!

Baby Washington performed "That's How Heartaches Are Made," Toni Wine mesmerized with her rendition of "A Groovy Kind of Love" (which she co-wrote with Carole Bayer Sager; a hit for The Mindbenders). Lillian Walker appeared in a sleek white gown with black-beaded design to deliver The Exciters' "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy," "He's Got the Power" and "Tell him."

Margaret Ross-Williams of The Cookies ("four fabulous girls who rocked the world," this Miss Ross said proudly) performed "I Never Dreamed," "Chains," "Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby" and "Baby Baby I Still Love You" (which was recorded by The Cookies under the name The Cinderellas).

The show culminated in the divine performance of the still soulful Ms Maxine Brown, her crimson pants suit as vibrant as her voice. She began with her self-penned classic, "Maybe It's All in My Mind."  She continued with a couple of Carole King tunes, including Brown's hit, "Oh, No, Not My Baby."

For a finale, the other divas joined Maxine for the joyous, Cajun-styled soul-stomper, "Cuz of My Sin."

It was a packed house with an adoring audience. Multitudes of bouqets were handed to the divas whose voices were remarkably undiminished by time. Although many of the recorded versions of the songs ended in the classic pop fade-out, these live performances gave us boffo vocal endings all. It was pure heaven re-living this golden era of music at BB King's.

John Clemente, author of Girl Groups: Fabulous Females Who Rocked the World was in the audience, as pointed out by Margaret Ross-Williams.  It's now on my must-read list. Meanwhile, the nine women performing tonight certainly rocked my world. And more "girl"-power to them!