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The Rooftop Singers: The Best of The Vanguard Years

C. Michael Bailey By

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The immediate appeal of the Rooftop Singers is their innocent yet informed style. Popular in the mid-'60s, this group predated the Hippie Movement and the Summer of Love. They arose during the searing career of the similar Weavers (the group guitarist/vocalist Erik Darling belonged to before joining the Rooftops). Where the Weavers became political lightening rods, the Rooftop Singers were content to make white folk covers of black blues, ragtime, and spirituals. At a time when Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones were redefining black electric blues, the Rooftop Singers were going in the minstrel direction of Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter.



"Walk Right In" opens the disc and proves why it was such an infectious hit. In listening to the remainder of the recording, I'm struck by the fact that the Rooftop Singers were "one hit wonders," not charting another number one hit. Any number of songs on this collection is as good or better than "Walk Right In." Consider "Tom Cat," "Cool Water," and "San Francisco Bay Blues," which are all hook-ridden tunes easily hummed. This disc contains an inventive "I’ve Been Working on the Railroad" and the splendid spirituals "Swing down, Chariot" and "I’m On My Way." Listening to this music today, I'm struck how dated the style sounds. Once you get beyond that cosmetic fact, you can get on with realizing the important place the Rooftop Singers hold in American music.



Visit Vanguard Records on the web.


Track Listing: Walk Right In; Dip Your Fingers; You Don

Personnel: Erik Darling

Title: The Best of The Vanguard Years | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Vanguard Records


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