My first real memory of eating Crème Eggs was in about the 3rd year of my senior
school. Cycling, or walking, home from school as part of a straggly pack of
schoolboys we would inevitably call into a newsagents to buy (I was never into
stealing) sweets of some description and as far as I can remember
this was when I developed a real taste for the Crème Egg. This would have
been about the time they changed, in the
, from being a Fry’s Crème Egg UK
to a Cadbury’s Crème Egg.
It has struck me how my taste for Crème Eggs, and similar sweet confectionary
has developed in directly inverse proportion to my love of sweet soul.
Back in the early Seventies while stuffing Crème Eggs into my mouth on the
journey home from school if we were discussing music it would likely have been
, Elton, Roxy, or Zep. I had discovered Soul music and was liking Bowie
it too, except for that horrible sweet sickly stuff - I blame the Stylistics.
Now here we are in 2011 and, prompted by our children, being that certain
time of year, our house is again seemingly awash with Crème Eggs. I can’t stand
the things now though. Just the sight of one sets my teeth on edge, that gooey stuff
in the middle is just sooo sweet – ugh! On the other hand I have noticed that over
the last few years my vinyl collection is getting increasingly laced with sweet soul records.
This new found appreciation of sweet soul really started to gather pace a few years
ago when I started delving more deeply into the back catalogues of groups that I
had previously only been vaguely familiar with, and somewhat dismissive of –
groups such as The Moments, The Whispers and, especially, The Delfonics. Now,
this year, I have suddenly developed a passion for another early Seventies group
– The Montclairs.
Their name sounds like it could be a good name for a sweet, a chocolate perhaps.
In fact this East St. Louis group took their name from a brand of cigarettes.
Their recorded output was small – initially they had two 45s released on
Oliver Sain related labels Arch and Vanessa. Then, in 1971, Oliver Sain placed them
on the Paula label (there’s a Ronn link again!) and in an all too brief time between
1971 and 1974 they would have six 45s and one album released. Most of the 45s
reached the R&B charts with “Dreaming Out Of Season” being their biggest hit,
peaking at #34. You can find more on The Montclairs here.
A feature of their sound was Phil Perry’s beautifully rich and pure falsetto which,
married to the lush arrangements, put them very much in the sweet soul bag.
Their arrangements though were often complex and quite unusual, I think, with
great structure. There is a sort of slowed down doo wop feel to the harmonies
and at times a skewed jazzy feel to the instrumentation. Describing them simply
as a sweet soul group doesn’t do them justice.
Many of my friends do not share my passion for soul music, and of those that do
sweet soul can be a step too far. At best therefore they can maybe appreciate that
the unusual arrangements, and Phil Perry’s pure voice, make The Montclairs stand
out from the pack a bit – excellent in parts could be their verdict, a curate’s egg
perhaps? In truth until recently that may have been my verdict too, but now all
of the a sudden I find I can’t get enough of them. Right down to the hard centre
(for as I think their sound is so much more than your average sweet soul fare if it
were a chocolate egg it would possess a hard centre not a soft one like a sickly
sweet Crème Egg).
Why not bite into The Montclairs and you too might find them thoroughly
exquisite throughout too – or should that be eggquisite? :)
They don’t make them like this anymore… part 84….
The Montclairs – How Can One Man Live 1973 (link works now)