This Magic Moment 45 by Jay & The Americans

November 16, 2012

The Drifters reached number 16 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart with “This Magic Moment.” Eight years later Jay & The Americans covered the song and had the last top ten single of their career.

It is always interesting to compare the two versions. The Drifters had a smooth soul sound and Jay Black had a powerful pop voice. Both versions were excellent in their own way.

“This Magic Moment” by Jay & The Americans first reached the Pop Chart, December 28, 1968, and early in 1969 peaked at number six and sold over one-million copies. Any compilation album by the group is still worth a listen.

Come A Little Bit Closer 45 by Jay And The Americans

April 10, 2012

“Come A Little Bit Closer” was one of those singles I played to death when I was young. It was catchy up-tempo pop that told a story.

The song was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and became their first top ten single. They would gain their greatest fame by their association with The Monkees.

Jay Black sang the lead vocal on the track and it became their biggest hit. Released during the late summer of 1964, it reached number three on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

It is still a record that graces my turn table every now and then.

Crying 45 by Jay and The Americans

December 31, 2011

It takes a lot of confidence to cover a Roy Orbison song and especially one of his classics. Jay & The Americans released “Crying” during 1966 and it reched number 25 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

Jay Black had a booming and strong voice but without the overall range of Orbison. Still, he produced a credible, if different, cover of this classic song. It is always interesting to compare the two versions.

Mr. Santa by Kenny & The Planotones

December 4, 2011

Kenny Vance is one of those artists that you have no doubt heard and possibly seen without realizing it. He was a founding member of the 1960s pop group Jay and The Americans, who were responsible for such hits as “She Cried,” “Cara Mia,” “Come A Little Bit Closer,” “This Magic Moment,” and “Sunday and Me.” He spent 11 years with the group, then became the music director for Saturday Night Live in 1980. Branching out into film work, he was the music supervisor for films such as Eddie And The Cruisers and Animal House.

The seeds for Kenny & The Planotones were sown during the 1978 film American Hot Wax. He appeared in the film with the members of Brooklyn Dreams as Professor LaPlano and The Planotones. During 1992, he and Johnny Gale, Kurt Yahjivan, Jimmy Bense, Chip DeGaard, and Tony Gallino officially became Kenny Vance & The Planotones. The original group remains intact nearly 20 years later.

The sound can be best described as a modern day doo-wop group. Their use of intricate vocal harmonies looks back to some of the classic sounds of the 1950s and early 1960s, but the production and sophistication of the music is very modern.

Their new Christmas release, Mr. Santa, combines a number of older classics with three newer Christmas compositions co-written by Vance and Gale with assistance from Bruce Sudano and Marty Kupersmith on one track apiece. What it all adds up to is a different type of Christmas album that not only is true to the spirit of the season, but is a nice ride through the music of seasons past.

Vance owns a voice that is suited for this type of material. He is able to blend effortlessly into the group’s tight harmonies or step out front for a traditional lead vocal.

The album begins with a composition by Joseph Rock and Kenny Beaumont of the Skyliners: “You’re My Christmas Present.” This classic doo-wop Christmas song is perfect for a group like the Planotones. It helps to present and define their style and establish the tone for what is to follow. Two originals follow–the title song and “Doo Wop Christmas,” which both serve to introduce the high caliber of Vance’s lead vocals.

Songs such as “Please Come Home For Christmas,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Merry Christmas Darling,” “What Are You Doing New Year’s Ever,” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” all serve up some more holiday fare.

Kenny Vance & The Planotones have managed to bridge the years, as they combine the best elements of the old and the new of the holiday season. Mr. Santa is a worthy and unique addition to the Christmas season and should remain so for years to come.

Article first published as Music Review: Kenny Vance and The Planotones – Mr. Santa on Blogcritics.