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Little Anthony and the Imperials - You'll Never Know

  by Lisa Torem

published: 31 / 5 / 2010

Little Anthony and the Imperials - You'll Never Know
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Lisa Torem assesses American rhythm and blues/soul group Little Anthony and the Imperials' 2008 album, 'You'll Never Know', which was released to coincide with their fiftieth anniversary

God struck gold when he created the voice that iconic lead vocalist Anthony Gourdine exudes. The legendary group, Little Anthony and the Imperials, embellished songs by Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein, and made them into glorious masterpieces in the 60s, and have continued to do so, despite a solo break, for just about five decades. ‘I Ain’t Fallin’ is a robust opener that screams “get on the dance floor". ‘Hurt So Bad’, a ballad of unrequited, heartfelt grief, still retains its warmth and purity, but is reimagined vis a vis a palette of smooth and streamlined jazz progressions. The first stanza is moving enough, but by the time Gourdine whispers “Like needles and pins/pPeople say you’ve been making out okay” and then crescendoes achingly into the phrase “She’s in love/Dn’t stand in her way…” you’re completely captivated. ‘Goin Out of my Head’, also written by Randazzo, is given a contemporary spin, but loses none of its memorable emotional magnetism. The modest Gourdine, in a recent interview with Pennyblackmusic, minimizes his songwriting talent on ‘You Don’t Fun’, but its sprightly hook, finger snapping and lightly brushed harmonies which flourish lyrics like, “You don’t fun/Like you used to fun…” combine to make it one of the most infectious tunes on the album. Gourdine also performs a duet with singer Deniece Williams, who boasts a Minnie Ripperton-range, on title song ‘You’ll Never Know.’ The tune is sonically balanced and performed with stunning precision. The instrumental ‘Carnival’ gives the talented brass section an opportunity to dazzle. Imperial Ernest Wright co-penned the wistful ‘Two People in the World’ and another Imperial Clarence Collins assumed the overall role of producer. ‘You’ll Never Know’ is essentially an outstanding album; a compelling patois that rekindles much beloved oldies, but imbues new arrangements with verve and grace. Gourdine’s voice flows warmly, like fresh syrup from a Vermont maple, during certain moments, but, more specifically, his renowned falsetto, occasional gritty growl and instinctual ability to flawlessly execute a stepwise passage also warrant recognition. Backing vocals by Clarence Collins, Jim Gilstrap and Harold Jenkins are so understated and poignant, that you can just imagine the four performers engaging in those striking choreographic moves meant to synch along. Their last CD ‘Pure Acapella’ showcased another skill set and dimension, while ‘You’ll Never Know’ blasts forth R & B, jazz, gospel and earthy, but exquisite balladry. You’ll be touched and elevated by these Brooklyn-bred, once boyhood friends, who became Hall of Famers just last year. Gourdine’s unbelievable God-given voice could bring an atheist to his knees.

Track Listing:-

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Interview (2010)
Lisa Torem talks to New York-based rhythm and blues/soul giant Little Anthony about the reformation after a seventeen year absence of his band the Imperials and their fifty year musical history and career

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