Between 1968 and 1979, Texas group, Archie Bell & The Drells, racked up twenty-one hits in the US R&B singles chart. Their biggest smash was their maiden chart entry, the infectious, much-sampled, 'Tighten Up,' which topped both the American R&B and pop charts during the summer of 1968.
After that, I suppose you could say it was all downhill for the Houston quartet but in actuality, though they could never emulate 'Tighten Up's ' across-the-board popular appeal and sales figures with their subsequent releases, they continued to release quality recordings during the next decade. Proof of that can be found on this magnificent 2-CD/44-track anthology, which chronologically charts their career trajectory via singles, B-sides and album cuts during a fecund eleven-year spell.
The effervescent 'Tighten Up' is one those tracks you never tire of and naturally, it's where this collection's story begins. Though it's the undoubted highlight of their tenure at Atlantic Records the equally catchy 'I Can't Stop Dancing' and the more sophisticated '(There's Gonna Be A) Showdown' - both of which were produced by Philly soul maestros, Gamble & Huff - come close. After their Atlantic contract ended, the group relocated to the smaller Glades label, where they cut a couple of 45s and just missed out on the US R&B Top10 with 'Dancing To Your Music.'
The second disc in this collection focuses on the group's reinvention as purveyors of smooth, urbane, disco-inflected, Philly soul at Gamble & Huff's TSOP and Philadelphia International labels. There are plenty of highlights here, including 'I Could Dance All Night,' the super-smooth 'Let's Groove,' from 1976 (significantly, it was their first US R&B Top 10 entry since 1969) and the wonderful 'Soul City Walk.' As a bonus, the compilers have added the 12-inch disco version of the songs 'Glad You Could Make It' and 'We Got 'Um Dancin'.' The CD booklet, packed with pictures, Archie Bell quotes and essential info, makes an engrossing read and provides the perfect accompaniment to the music. A superlative compilation.