By the time The Manhattans were about to release their seventh album The Manhattans, success had eluded the group. The most successful of their six previous albums had been their previous album 1974s There’s No Me Without You, which reached number 150 in the US Billboard 200 and number nineteen in the US R&B Charts. That was about to change when The Manhattans was released in 1976. It would surpass everything that had gone before, reaching number sixteen in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts, being certified gold in the process. This would be the first of three albums by The Manhattans that would be certified gold. After this, the follow-up to The Manhattans,1977s It Feels So Good and 1980s After Midnight were both certified gold. These three albums featured some of the best music of The Manhattans career. They were all recorded in Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, which back in the seventies, was the music capital of America. Both The Manhattans and It Feels So Good were co-produced by Bobby Martin and Bert DeCouteaux two hugely talented, experienced and successful producers. Together with The Manhattans, they produced the album that started this run of successful and gold certified albums The Manhattans. Together with After Midnight, The Manhattans was rereleased by Superbird Records in 2010. However, before I tell you about the music on The Manhattans, I’ll tell you about the background to, and making of the album.

Like their two previous albums, 1973s There’s No Me Without You and 1974s That’s How Much I Love You were co-produced by Bobby Martin. For recording of The Manhattans, Bobby Martin and Bert DeCouteaux were hired to coproduce the album. Recording sessions too place at two studios, with seven tracks recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, while the other three tracks were recorded at Columbia Recording Studios in New York. These recording sessions would be the turning point in Richard Taylor, Edward Bivins, Winfred “Blue” Lovett, Kenneth Kelly and Gerald Alston, The Manhattans. Little did they know that the ten songs that they were about to record would change their career. 

With recording taking place in Philadelphia and New York, ten tracks were chosen for the album. This included Reasons, co-written by Maurice White, Philip Bailey and Charles Stepney. Two of The Manhattans contributed tracks for the album. Edward Bivins wrote one song, while Winfred “Blue” Lovett wrote two songs, one of which would provide The Manhattans with the biggest hit of their career. These three songs, plus the seven other tracks were recorded in Philadelphia and New York, with some experienced and talented musicians accompanying them. With The Manhattans seventh album recorded, all that was left was for it to be released. This would prove to be the album that started the most successful period in The Manhattans’ career.

When The Manhattans seventh album The Manhattans was released, it reached number sixteen in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts, being certified gold in the process. Two singles were released from the album, with Kiss and Say Goodbye reaching number one in both the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts. Hurt was the second single released, reaching number ninety-seven in the US Billboard 100 and number ten in the US R&B Charts. After this The Manhattans would enter the most commercially successful period of their career. However, the album that started this period was The Manhattans, which I’ll now tell you about.

Opening The Manhattans is Searching For Love arranged by Bobby Martin, who co-produced the track with The Manhattans. This is one of the uptempo tracks on the album, with a real Philly sound influence thanks to Bobby Martin. The rhythm section and bursts of horns combining as the track opens. When The Manhattans contribute tight, emotive, cascading four-part harmonies, strings cascade above the arrangement, as Gerald Alston delivers an impassioned, powerful vocal. From there, the track becomes a joyous explosion of the slickest, smoothest Philly soul. Strings, sweep and swirl, horns rasp, while the rhythm section and percussion combining seamlessly with Gerald’s heartfelt, impassioned vocal and some the best harmonies you’ll ever hear. It’s an irresistible, hook-laden slice of the finest Philly soul.

On We’ll Have Forever To Love, The Manhattans drop the tempo on a track written by Edward Bivins. The tempo is just 79 beats per minute, with the sultriest of saxophones, rhythm section and Hammond organ accompanying Gerald’s half-spoken vocal. Then when his vocal enters, it’s heartfelt and sincere, accompanied by subtle harmonies. Sometimes, drums add drama, while lush strings and guitars add to the track’s beauty and romantic sound. Later, the addition of a lone saxophone is the finishing touch to what’s a gorgeous heartfelt paean to love.

Take It or Leave It is another of the slower tracks, which The Manhattans are so good at delivering. Again, Bobby Martin arranged and co-produced the track with The Manhattans. Gerald’s vocal is laden with emotion as he delivers the lyrics, while the rest of the group add equally emotional and heartfelt harmonies. The slow arrangement combines an understated sound, before later, the rhythm section and strings add to the drama and emotion. Mostly, it’s just the rhythm section, keyboards and slow, sad strings that combine. This is really effective, combining beautifully with Gerald’s lead vocal and the harmonies that accompany him.

Reasons is a cover of a song that Maurice White, Philip Bailey and Charles Stepney cowrote for Earth, Wind and Fire. It’s one of the trio of songs recorded in New York, arranged and produced by Bert DeCouteaux. His “sound” is very different from Bobby Martin’s, and although it’s a good track, I feel Bobby Martin’s sound is more suited to The Manhattans. Each of The Manhattans take turns of delivering the lead vocal, while swathes of strings envelop their vocal. As the vocal changes hands, the rhythm section, strings, percussion and occasional bursts of horn accompany The Manhattans. While this track has a different sound to previous tracks, it has one thing in common….quality.

Winfred Lovett of The Manhattans wrote two songs on the album, with How Can Anything So Good Be So Bad For You the first of these. Here Bert DeCouteaux arranges and co-produces the track with The Manhattans. This is another uptempo track, with a really catchy, feel-good sound, laden with hooks. Both The Manhattans and the band surpass themselves. Gerald’s powerful, passionate vocal is augmented by some of the finest harmonies on the album. Meanwhile, the rhythm section, swirling, sweeping strings and bursts of blazing horns combine to produce  a joyous, peerless arrangement on what’s one of the highlights of the album. Why this track wasn’t released as a single seems incredible?

The second single released from The Manhattans was Hurt, co-written by Al Jacobs and Jimmie Craine. Previously, the track had been a hit single for Tim Yuro and Roy Hamilton. Here, The Manhattans give the song their own twist, produced by the group and Bobby Martin. The Manhattans contribute beautiful harmonies, before a half-spoken introduction, that gives way to Gerald’s heartbroken lead vocal, laden in sadness and regret. Lush strings, burst of rasping horns and drums, combine with the harmonies to produce an arrangement that’s drenched in sadness and a perfect accompaniment for the lead vocal. Of the ten tracks on The Manhattans, this is by far the saddest, most moving and ultimately, beautiful.

Wonderful World Of Love, written by Robert Riley Sr. is another of the slow, ballads The Manhattans deliver so well. The interplay between the heartfelt lead vocal and harmonies is peerless, the result of fourteen years experience. Bobby Martin’s arrangement plays an important role in the track’s success. Much of this is down to the rhythm section, who provide the perfect, understated backdrop for the vocal, before later, swathes of strings enter. They add to the emotion and beauty of The Manhattans’ vocals. Their delivery combines passion, emotion and sincerity. When combined with Bobby Martin’s arrangement, this results in another beautiful ballad, of the quality we’ve come to expect from The Manhattans.

Keyboards, rhythm section and slow, sweeping strings combine as If You’re Ever Gonna Love Me opens. When Gerald’s vocal enters, it’s slow, impassioned and dramatic. The rest of The Manhattans combine to deliver harmonies that are heartfelt and dramatic. Later, the lead vocal changes hands, as the string drenched arrangement unfolds. Like other tracks on the album, the arrangement has an understated sound, allowing The Manhattans to take-centre stage. Here, it’s just keyboards, rhythm section and strings that are key to the arrangement. Bobby Martin’s arrangement is one of his best, fusing seamlessly with The Manhattans on one of the best tracks on then album.

As La La La Wish Upon A Star opens, The Manhattans demonstrate how good they are at singing four-part harmonies. They’re accompanied by lush strings, bursts of rasping horns and the rhythm section that as usual, provides the track’s heartbeat. Gerald’s vocal is tender and sincere, while cascading strings and harmonies augment it. Horns punctuate the arrangement, combining with strings to play starring roles in the track’s success. Winfred acts as the closer for the track, his deep, distinctive bringing this uplifting, joyful track to a close.

Closing The Manhattans is Kiss And Say Goodbye, the track that gave The Manhattans number one singles in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts. This is the second track written by Winfred Lovett, whose spoken word introduction opens the track. From the get-go, the track is laden with sadness and regret, with Winfred having to say goodbye to the woman he was having an illicit affair with. After a minute, Gerald takes over. His vocal is riddled with regret and heartache, while the Hammond organ, cascading strings and rhythm section accompany him. The rest of the group add to the sense of sadness and regret, adding harmonies drenched in emotion. For over four minutes, you’re enthralled, at the drama and heartache unfolding before you. You become caught up in the song, begin to feel sorry for everyone, especially the woman he’s saying goodbye to, demonstrating just a good a track this is. For me, this is the best track on The Manhattans, and a perfect way to close the album.

Fourteen years after The Manhattans were founded, they made their commercial breakthrough with their seventh album The Manhattans. It reached number sixteen in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts. This gave them the first of three gold discs, and was the start of the most commercially successful period of The Manhattans long career. Bobby Martin who arranged and co-produced seven of the ten tracks, played an important part in the album’s success. So did Bert DeCouteaux who produced the three other tracks on the album. However, Bobby Martin weaved some Philly magic on seven of the tracks, with his arrangements and productions providing a perfect backdrop for The Manhattans’ vocals. Having two different producers working on the album could’ve caused problems, but thankfully this wasn’t the case. Both Bobby Martin and Bert DeCouteaux were experienced and talented producers, who played a huge part in the success of The Manhattans. Given how talented a group The Manhattans were, it seems strange that it took them seven albums before their music found the success it deserved. After this, two more of their albums 1977s It Feels So Good and 1980s After Midnight were certified gold. The albums The Manhattans released between 1976 and 1980, including The Manhattans, contain some of the best music of their career. These albums were rereleased by Superbird Records in 2010, giving anyone whose yet to discover the music of The Manhattans the perfect opportunity to do so. For me, The Manhattans is the perfect place to start when discovering the music of The Manhattans. For anyone who loves the Philly sound, then The Manhattans is a real must-have album. Standout Tracks: Searching For Love, We’ll Have Forever To Love, How Can Anything So Good Be So Bad For You and Kiss And Say Goodbye.


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