THE MANHATTANS-THERE’S NO ME WITHOUT YOU.
THE MANHATTANS-THERE’S NO ME WITHOUT YOU.
Like so many other groups, success took time to come The Manhattans’ way. Indeed, The Manhattans released seven albums before making a commercial breakthrough with 1976s The Manhattans. It was certified gold, and 1977s It Feels So Good and 1980s After Midnight repeated the feat. However, before their 1976 breakthrough album, The Manhattans were one of soul music’s best kept secrets.
Their recording career had started in 1965, when The Manhattans released Dedicated To You on Carnival Records. Sing For You and Yours followed in 1968 on Carnival, before they released two albums on Deluxe Records. These were 1971s With These Hands and 1972s A Million To One. For their fifth album, 1973s There’s No Me Without You, The Manhattans signed to Capitol Records, where the next chapter in their career began.
Now signed to Capitol Records, the five members of The Manhattans Richard Taylor, Edward Bivins, Winfred “Blue” Lovett, Kenneth Kelly and Gerald Alston were about to encounter a man who’d play a crucial role in their career. This arranger and producer Bobby Martin, who was something of a musical veteran. He was playing an important part in Philadelphia International Records’ rise and rise. Bobby wasn’t the only member of Philly’s musical elite to play a part in the recording of There’s No Me Without You. M.F.S.B. Philadelphia International Records’ legendary house-band would accompany The Manhattans on their major label debut.
For There’s No Me Without You, which will be released on Funky Town Grooves, on 16th February 2015, The Manhattans contributed six of the ten tracks. Edward Bivins wrote There’s No Me Without You and cowrote The Other Side of Me with Gerald Alston. Wilfred Lovett wrote We Made It and Wish That You Were Mine. He also cowrote Soul Train with Little Harlem and It’s So Hard Loving You with Charles Reed. Other tracks included Kenneth Kelly’s The Day The Robin Sang To Me and You’d Better Believe It penned by John Fowlkes and Roger Genger.Teddy Randazzo cowrote the other two tracks. With Roger Joyce he cowrote I’m Not A Run Around and with Victoria Pike and Souren Mozian penned Falling Apart At The Seams. These ten tracks became For There’s No Me Without You, which was recorded at Joe Tarsia’s Sigma Sound Studios in Philly.
At Sigma Sound Studios, M.F.S.B. were accompanying The Manhattans on There’s No Me Without You. M.F.S.B’s lineup included the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, plus guitarists Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Roland Chambers. They were joined by organist Lenny Pakula, Larry Washington on congas, vibes virtuoso Vince Montana Jr and violinist Don Renaldo, who was the string and horn contractor. Adding backing vocals were The Sweethearts of Sigma, Barbara Ingram, Evette Benton and Carla Benson. Once There’s No Me Without You was recorded, it was released in 1973. Would The Manhattans major label debut There’s No Me Without You prove a commercial success.
On the release of There’s No Me Without You in 1973, it reached number 150 in the US Billboard 200 and number nineteen in the US R&B Charts. This made There’s No Me Without You The Manhattans’ most successful album. The title-track There’s No Me Without You reached number forty-three in the US Billboard and number three in the US R&B Charts, becoming The Manhattans’ most successful single. Wish That You Were Mine then reached number nineteen in the US R&B Charts. It seemed The Manhattans’ Philly Soul makeover by Bobby Martin had transformed their career and fortunes. You’ll realize why, when I tell you about There’s No Me Without You.
There’s No Me Without You opens with the title-track There’s No Me Without You. Earl Young’s pounding drums, Vince Montana Jr’s vibes and percussion combine to create a heartbreakingly beautiful backdrop for Gerald Alston’s pleading vocal. Harmonies sweep in. Elegantly and beautifully, they sooth Gerald’s hurt. Meanwhile, the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section add drama, while Vince’s vibes, lush strings and Norman Harris’ guitar add to the beauty. Later, when a half-spoken vocal enters, it adds to sadness and emotion. Add to this the tight, tender harmonies and the result is track filled with sadness, emotion and heartbreak.
From the opening bars of We Made It, you realize something special is unfolding. Understated, wistful and meandering describes the arrangement. So too does sensual and beautiful, which describes The Manhattans harmonies and vocals. Here, they indulge themselves, demonstrating that when it comes to harmonies, The Manhattans were one of the best. Their cascading, pleading and hopeful harmonies, are perfection. They’re laden with emotion, joy and hope. Quite simply, We Made It, with its doo wop influence is simply sensual and beautiful.
Wish That You Were Mine is another of the slow, beautiful ballads that The Manhattans do so well. Percussion, Vince Montana Jr’s vibes and Norman Harris jazzy guitar provide a melancholy backdrop for the half-spoken vocal. Gerald’s vocal is tinged with regret at the hurt at the hurt he’s about to cause his friend. As the drama builds, harmonies sweep in, adding to the chaos and heartache that’s about to be unleashed. Muted horns, sweeping strings and an understated Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section add to the atmospheric, emotive backdrop as Gerald unleashes a vocal tour de force.
Swathes of strings sweep and horns rasp as I’m Not A Run Around unfolds. Norman Harris’ guitar chimes and Earl Young’s drums pound dramatically. Having set the scene for Gerald, he lays bare his soul. He assures and pleads with sincerity and emotion: “I’m Not A Run Around.” Harmonies cascade, adding further reassurance, while Baker, Harris, Young provide the arrangement’s heartbeat. By the end of the track, so impassioned and heartfelt are his pleas that you can’t help but believe him.
Soul Train closes SIde One of There’s No Me Without You. There’s an increase in tempo as The Manhattans kick loose, against a tougher, funkier arrangement. Baker, Harris, Young provide the necessary funk, while Gerald’s vocal is sassy and powerful. Chanted harmonies, blazing horns and searing guitars play their part in adding a dramatic and funky backdrop for your journey on the Soul Train.
You’d Better Believe It opens Side Two of There’s No Me Without You. It’s a return to the balladry of much of Side One, but with a twist. Heartfelt, tender harmonies are cascading strings and Vince Montana Jr’s vibes, while Baker, Harris, Young add to the emotion and beauty. The only differences are guitars drenched in reverb, while the arrangement has a real sixties influence. This works well, bringing out the interplay between the lead vocal and some peerless harmonies.
Norman Harris’ chiming guitar dances across the introduction to It’s So Hard Loving You. Cooing harmonies from The Sweethearts of Sigma and Manhattans accompany the pleading, impassioned vocal. The harmonies and lead vocal take centre-stage, with M.F.S.B. providing a subtle backdrop. This includes growling horns that add to the sheer emotion of The Manhattans’ vocal prowess.
It doesn’t take long to realize that The Day The Robin Sang To Me is one of the best tracks on Side Two. Ron Baker’s probing bass joins swathes of lush strings, woodwind and cooing harmonies from The Sweethearts of Sigma and Manhattans. Their tenderness and beauty are the perfect foil for Gerald’s vocal, while the husky half-spoken vocal provides a contrast. Add to this Larry Washington’s congas, a wistful flute and sensual harmonies. A combination of a gorgeous meandering, intricate arrangement and The Manhattans at their very best make this fusion of jazz, Latin and Philly Soul an enchanting and timeless track.
Keyboards and the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section open Falling Apart At the Seams. Soon, producer Bobby Martin works his magic. Strings sweep and swirl, Norman Harris adds his jazzy guitar and Vince Montana Jr sprinkles his vibes. This seems to encourage The Manhattans to raise their game. Gerald’s lead vocal is even more heartfelt and impassioned, while the harmonies are tighter, more soulful and filled with feeling and meaning.
The Other Side of Me closes Side Two of There’s No Me Without You. It seems The Manhattans are determined to close the album on a soulful, emotive high. Just keyboards, Baker, Harris, Young and Vince Montana Jr’s vibes accompany Gerald’s heartbroken vocal. Harmonies sweep in, trying to sooth his hurt and heartache. He delivers each word as if he’s experienced the hurt he’s singing about. Baker, Harris, Young add to the drama, while pizzicato strings pluck at your heartstrings and The Manhattans bring There’s No Me Without You to a heartbreakingly sad, but beautiful close.
While There’s No Me Without You, which will be released on Funky Town Grooves, on 16th February 2015, was The Manhattans’ fifth album, it was their major label debut. Producer Bobby Martin and M.F.S.B. play their part in the sucess of There’s No Me Without You. From the opening bars of There’s No Me Without You right through to the closing notes of The Other Side of Me, The Manhattans never miss a beat. Their vocal and harmonic prowess is peerless. So, it’s no surprise that There’s No Me Without You was the most successful album of their career. Sadly, it would be three more years until they made their commercial breakthrough with 1976s million-selling The Manhattans. They’d repeat this feat with 1977s It Feels So Good and 1980s After Midnight.
Albums like There’s No Me Without You demonstrate that there’s much more to The Manhattans’ music than these three albums. Indeed, There’s No Me Without You is an album packed full of quality soul music. There’s No Me Without You is helped no end by the producer Bobby Martin, M.F.S.B. and The Sweethearts of Sigma. They played their part in ensuring The Manhattans Philly Soul makeover There’s No Me Without You, launched them onto the road marked critical acclaim and commercial success.
THE MANHATTANS-THERE’S NO ME WITHOUT YOU.
- Posted in: Disco ♦ Philadelphia Soul
- Tagged: A Million To One, Baker Haris Young, Bobby “Electronic” Eli, Bobby Martin, Dedicated To You, M.F.S.B., Sigma Sound Studios, Sing For You and Yours, The Manhattans, The Sweethearts of Sigma, There’s No Me Without You, Vince Montana Jr, Winfred “Blue” Lovett, With These Hands