This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
This is album retro-review number 106 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
The first fifty reviews were vinyl only, and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page. From review 101 onward I have mixed vinyl and CD albums and, try and present an Australian album every fifth review!
Now it is sometimes said, that words get in the way of great music, and that’s why symphonies are so wonderful. But what happens when there are no musical instruments, except some minimal percussion?
What you get is, The Nylons and damn great Capella!
The Nylons album One Size Fits All was released in 1983 on the Liberation label, code LIB-5021. It’s an eleven track album and is really, quite superb.
The Nylons are a Canadian group who over the years have had many members:
• Marc Connors (tenor 1978-1991) (died March 1991)*
• Paul Cooper (baritone 1978-1990) (died December 29, 2013)*
• Claude Morrison (tenor 1978–present)*
• Denis Simpson (bass 1978-1979) (died October 22, 2010)*
• Ralph Cole (bass 1979-1981) (deceased, buried in Manitoba, Canada)
• Arnold Robinson (bass 1981-2006) (died March 16, 2013)
• Micah Barnes (baritone 1990-1994)
• Billy Newton-Davis (tenor 1991-1994)
• Garth Mosbaugh (tenor 1994–present)
• Gavin Hope (baritone 1994-1997, 2006–present)
• Mark Cassius (baritone 1997-2005)
• Tyrone Gabriel (baritone 2005, bass 2006–present)
* Denotes the four founding members.
This is arguably the very best line up of The Nylons.
With twenty two albums from the first – The Nylons in 1982 through to Skintight in 2011, the group has been consistent in releasing albums while maintaining live performances.
However only Claude remains from the lineup in this album.
Their story is well told on their web site, but here are some pertinent material from their official bio.
“It all begins with the voice. And The Nylons have never even needed a band – they just needed their voices, their joy, and their ability to entertain audiences.
In 1979 four Toronto actors, “resting” and bored between auditions and jobs, decided to create a band. Problem: Paul Cooper, Mark Connors, Claude Morrison and Denis Simpson weren’t instrumentalists, but, dammit, they sure could sing. The four were singing their hearts out in the back room of a Toronto deli, and soon there were little after-hours gigs and some benefit performances.
With a reputation building in Queen Street “art” circles, The Nylons – named in the style of black vocal groups like The Orlons and The Chiffons – were ready for prime time. In April 1979 the group had its first “professional” engagement in an upstairs (and unlicensed) club across the street from the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.
The seating was hard, you couldn’t buy a drink, the sound system was rudimentary – and a single nylon hung from the centre microphone. The room was packed and the initial two-week run was extended for an additional six weeks; the Nylons became media darlings, and soon there was a 17-week run at a Queen Street club.
By the time the Nylons’ self-titled debut album was released in early 1982 the group had built a national reputation as the result of constant coast-to-coast touring – and the record went Platinum in two months, a feat repeated by the second album, One Size Fits All, which came out at the end of the same year.” [The Nylons Official Web Site]
Largely due to the monster track, Bob Til You Drop, it sent this album Platinum, which was two from two as their first album also went platinum.
1. That Kind Of Man – 3:42
2. Silhouettes – 2:46
3. Town Without Pity – 3:46
4. Prince Of Darkness – 3:28
5. Romance (If I Can Get It) – 2:18
6. Bumble Boogie – 0:53
7. Up The Ladder To The Roof – 2:30
8. Heavenly Bodies – 3:09
9. Bop ‘Til You Drop – 3:06
10. Please – 2:44
11. So Long – 3:18
As I usually do, I am starting with track number 1, as often this gives a good indication of the quality of what we, the listener is in for.
Yes, it could be argued that the first track may lull the listener into a false sense of security and maybe once in the past it did.
There was a time when an album had at the best, 2 or 3 good tracks, a few passable tracks and the rest was fill. Thank god we became more sophisticated and stopped putting up with that rubbish, and as a result from the 1980’s onward albums were gradually produced with more and more tracks of quality on them.
I do concede that in recent years that might once again be open to challenge!
However with this group, track number 1 – The Kind of Man, is indeed a most excellent track, whilst not the best track on the album.
It commences with crowd noises of folk sounding as if they are having a good time.
What is stunning is not what is on this album, but the fact that the U.S. CD version suspiciously edits out the original intro to the song because it mentions “discos and gay cabarets“
The lyrics go –
People say I’m a happy go-lucky guy
When the music and wine start to flow
I go to discos and gay cabarets
Unable to let myself go
Some people live to be the life of the party
Lampshade hat and they’re away to the races
So many people loving so many lovers
Takin’ everybody to some strangers place
Don’t get me wrong I’ve had my share of affairs
I’ve had some hot nights singin’ one night stands
But right up front I think it’s only fair
To tell you I’ve got different plans
That’s not the way I am
I’m not that kind of man
It’s not that I am shy
I’m just not that kind of guy
So if you feel the same
You’re tired of playing games
Then try to understand
That I’m not that kind of man
A lot of people take their loving too lightly
They change emotions like they’re changing their clothes
They come alive and thrive on new lovers nightly
How they do it I don’t know, ’cause
If you see him standing on the edge of the action
You think he’s only playing it cool
He’s only looking for a little sweet satisfaction
I’m tired of being somebody’s fool
So if you spot me on the fringe of the party
Holding up the walls with hot and hungry eyes
Don’t be afraid to say hello to a stranger
You just might like your surprise
Now go Google the lyrics and dollars to donuts most of the lyrics printed leave out the first verse.
Have we really got to the point where we have to censor lyrics because they indicate that some folk may like gay cabarets?
Go figure, because I can’t, and that’s one of the reasons why I am providing the ORIGINAL version as it is on my vinyl LP, and not the censored version most people get to hear when they buy the Cd!
BUT, it’s not just the lyrics that make this track attractive!
There are damn fine vocals and we begin from this the first track, to appreciate the fantastic harmonies these guys achieve.
Lead vocal is by Paul Cooper.
That Kind of Man
Moving down to track number four – Prince of Darkness.
Except for the fact that there is one really outstanding and superb track on this album, this would have rated as my favourite! Prince of Darkness has no lead singer it is very much a total group effort, and what an effort.
Kicking off with what sounds very much like the legendary Roland TR 808 drum machine, the song is about exactly what the title suggests.
Call him the Prince of Darkness, the “Devil” or “whomever”, the lyrics say it all. “Begone Prince of Darkness, you have no power here….”
If song is a way of dispelling darkness I’d have The Nylons up at the front.
What we have is a “Gospel track”, but while we can love an appreciate traditional gospel, this is not it!
Funk Gospel, is the best description of this style and this track is a brilliant example.
“I woke from a dream to a rumble of thunder
Not heard but perceived from within
A feeling inside that just can’t be denied
Says the countdown is soon to begin.”
Prince of Darkness
Just before turning the album over I must say that side one, and indeed side two, have a very good mixture of original tracks and covers, such Silhouettes and, Gene Pitney’s “Town Without Pity” (track number 3).
Elizabeth Wenning in her 1992 book “Contemporary Musicians” said of this track; “Town Without Pity’ becomes not a corny rival of a Gene Pitney hit but a stirring comment about the intolerance afoot on a ‘grey and granite planet’ that seems closer than ever to falling apart.”
So let’s turn the album over and we find track number one on side 2 is – Up The ladder To The Roof, with lead vocals this time by Marc Conners.
The track starts of reminding me very much of the 5th Dimension, who proceeded The Nylons by two decades.
However, it doesn’t take long for The Nylons to establish that it is not the 5th Dimension singing, it is something far better.
In fact the track was first recorded in 1970 by The Supremes and it not easy to outdo The Supremes in harmony, but these boys do it, and do it with style.
There is a real excitement in the singing and it is hard not to allow it to enthuse us, the listener. Up The Ladder To The Roof was used in the movie Made In Heaven.
Up The Ladder To the Roof
Side 2, track number three is my absolute favourite track.
Bop Til You Drop features lead vocals again by Paul Cooper. From the opening lyrics until the end – it is a track of pure showmanship, pure vocal brilliance and if you are not tapping your feet, you are either dead, or your feet are nailed to the floor:
“Mama said on the day I was born
There was a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on
There was a party next door the people callin’ out for more
And they played the boogie all night long
I was raised on a beat that was oh so sweet
Fed on the rhythm and blues
When she sent me on my way I heard my mama say
Son, don’t forget your dancin’ shoes
Bop ’til you drop
Shake it ’til you break it
Move it ’til you lose it
This is the track that for me, defines The Nylons.
It brings to mind a term I read somewhere that absolutely defines their music style – Rockapella”!
Bop Til You Drop was one of the key tracks that drove this album to platinum sales, and as you listen you will understand why!
Bob Til You Drop
The Nylons went on from strength to strength, and are still playing live today.
Yet over the years the lineup has changed considerably, and in my mind, there was a freshness and magic in the early lineups that complimented the quality of the voices and arrangements that is a little lacking in the more recent lineups.
“By 1990, Paul Cooper, who had been the most prolific writer and arranger in the group, retired. He was just plain exhausted from being on the road for ten years. His replacement was Micah Barnes. Then a big blow fell on the group. Marc Connors died in 1991. It would have been a devastating blow for many, but less than a month later, The Nylons were back on stage with R&B singer, Billy Newton-Davis.
Not only did they have two new members, but they had a new Record Label, Scotti Brothers in Los Angeles.
During their first recording, Live To Love, they tried some more instrumental accompaniment and rap/funk/R&B to appeal to a younger audience – to a somewhat dubious end in my opinion. The quartet soldiered on until Micah Barnes and Billy Newton-Davis wished to return to solo careers and left.
Claude and Arnold searched and found Garth Mosbaugh who had both musical theater and TV experience, and Gavin Hope who had been a member of an a cappella group which had opened for The Nylons in the past.
The new foursome returned to the studio to record, and went back toward the sound which had made them so popular, vocal with some percussion”.[singers.com]
Canada’s pop vocal group has an amazing sales record of more than 2 million copies, along with seven gold and six platinum recordings.
The Nylons has performed over 1,000 concerts throughout Japan, Korea, China, Australia, Europe, Brazil, the United States, and Canada.
They received several awards and accolades, such as a Tokyo Music Festival award and a Canadian Juno nomination for Best Jazz Vocal album in 2011.
There really is no argument that can be mounted that can doubt that this group had the most dazzling harmonies and smooth arrangements.
Yet, at the same time as providing some of the best capella singing you’ll hear, they can be funny and witty and certainly very entertaining.
If you are looking for an album of The Nylons that best represents the quality of their music, then this is the album to try and obtain.
Copies of the vinyl pressing are available for around $15.00 and the Cd comes in at around $25.00.
Do keep in m ind that the Cd has been “tampered” with, you know? track 1? The deletion of lyrics in That Kind Of Man!
Popping into Youtube bought up the following video clips. The first clip is the track that created the real interest in the group.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward: