Dreams, Pleas & Blues

The Ravens

Columbia / Legacy Records, 1998


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I developed a taste for "oldies" thanks to my father. I still remember listening to Dick Bartley on Saturday nights on WFYR-FM, long before his show went national. It's gotten to the point where I know the music of my father's time better than he does - and he takes great joy in the times he's able to stump me.

So, it was a bit of a surprise to me when I showed him Dreams, Pleas & Bluesmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 by The Ravens, and Dad told me he had never heard of them before. One spin of the disc, and he gave it back to me, telling me he really didn't like it. (Then again, that's why my father doesn't write for this site.)

A compilation of sides recorded in the early '50s, The Ravens are definitely a precursor to the world of rock and roll that was just a few short years away. Their style of rhythm & blues is similar to the works of groups like The Drifters in some areas, and the low bass of Jimmy Ricks's voice also conjures up memories of many early bands in the days of rock's infancy.

This collection of 21 songs will most likely be an introduction to The Ravens for most listeners. And while it is very much an acquired taste (I recommend breaking the disc up into two or three listens), it is not an unpleasant experience. Tracks like "Walkin' With The Blues" (can someone explain to me why the key of the song suddenly shifts down right near the end?), "Midnight Blues", "Time Takes Care Of Everything" and "Oh Babe!" all make one question why The Ravens isn't a band whose name is spoken with reverence today.

Two songs suggest why this may be the case: "The Calypso Song" and "The Whiffenpoof Song", two numbers that captured the popularity of those themes in 1950 and 1951. Maybe back then these were cute, but in 1999, they really sound dated. Yes, I'm fully aware that my grandkids will someday look through my music collection and shake their heads in disbelief at some of the things I listened to. Hell, I do that these days.

Still, the majority of the music on Dreams, Pleas & Blues is enjoyable - but this is a difficult CD to get through in one sitting. Billy Vera's liner notes are quite detailed, though I really would have liked to have seen a listing of band members, seeing that I knew nothing about this band going into the disc, and I don't know too much more afterwards.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia / Legacy Records, and is used for informational purposes only.