Wandering Randomly At YouTube

At least once before, I’ve mentioned that one of the fun ways I learn about relatively obscure records is to listen to one of them at YouTube and then look at the column of suggested videos off to the right. Those suggested videos come up, I believe, via an algorithm that combines one’s recent wanderings on the site with the wanderings of other folks who looked at that same specific video.

The record “Who Do You Love” by the Sapphires, a black pop/R&B trio from Philadelphia, rolled through the RealPlayer yesterday just as I was looking for a tune to post as a link at Facebook. I went and found the video, and posted the link, then did some moderate digging and learned that the record – which I quite like – went to No. 24 pop and No. 9 R&B in 1964.

When I went back to that YouTube page this morning, some of the suggested videos on the right side were different because of my wanderings since the first visit, but there were still some intriguing suggestions.

One of them was “Somebody Please” by the Vanguards, a vocal group from Indianapolis that hit the R&B Top 40 in 1970 when “It’s Too Late For Love” went to No. 33. “Somebody Please,” which was released in 1969, did not make the charts, but it’s an okay record. The delivery on one of the solo verses sounds a bit over-wrought (“stentorian” was the first word that came to mind), but other than that, it would have been nice for a sweet slow dance in high school. One of the commenters at YouTube says he is the son of one of the Vanguards and remembers watching the group rehearse at his home. Another commenter has, evidently, less happy associations, writing: “This song is dedicated to Danny Martinez – Horse – served U.S. Marine Corps in the Republic of Vietnam, RIP.”*

A look at the right-hand column at the “Somebody Please” page leads us “I’m Just An Average Guy” by the Masqueraders, a sweet piece of R&B. The group hailed from Texas and had a couple of singles hit the Billboard Hot 100. “Average Guy” was not one of them, but it went to No. 24 on the R&B chart in 1969. One of the commenters echoes my thoughts: “I never knew this group existed till today. More than excellent.” And I look at the right-hand column again.

The Montclairs were an R&B vocal group from East St. Louis, Illinois, whose “Beggin’ Is Hard To Do” went to No. 33 on the R&B chart in 1972. It’s a decent record that sounds a lot like a thousand other R&B vocal records from the era, but it was the best-performing of the three records that the group placed in the R&B Top 40. “One of my favorite songs,” says one commenter. “This is love beyond words.” And we move on.

And we stay, not at all surprisingly, in early 1970s vocal soul: “Can This Be Real” by the Natural Four. The record went to No. 31 on the pop chart and to No. 10 on the R&B chart in early 1974. Like everything except the Sapphires’ record that started this trip, this is a record I’ve never heard, but this is one I love without reservation. The same was true for one of the commenters: “This is one of the best songs of the ’70s. My favorite time growing up. The music was good, the clothes were sharp, we knew how to enjoy each other. I miss those days.”

Our last jump into the right-hand column brings us to a group we’ve talked about before and a a cover version I didn’t know existed. New Birth was one of two groups that evolved in the 1970s from the Nite-Liters, a group put together by Harvey Fuqua and Tony Churchill. The tangled tale is worth digging into more deeply, but that’s for another time. This morning, we’re just listening to “Wildflower” by New Birth. Skylark’s original version of the song went to No. 9 in 1973, and New Birth’s 1974 cover went to No. 40 on the pop chart and to No. 17 on the R&B chart. It’s sweet, and I’m not the only person who thinks so. One commenter said, “Remember slow dancing by scroll light in ’73. Wow, what memories.”

*I’ve added punctuation to some of the comments.

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