Amidst considerable competition in soul music, the Manhattans
are often forgotten and seldom repackaged, which makes this career-spanning collection -- the first box set in their chronology -- all the more valuable. It's easy to understand the lack of recognition; the Manhattans' two pop hits were severely slick ballads that may have ruled the pop charts but never gained a foothold among discriminating soul fans. Further, their material wasn't a match for the Top Five or Top Ten soul groups of the '70s, and although they recorded at Philly's vaunted Sigma Sound studio, they naturally didn't get the high-quality charts that the O'Jays
or Harold Melvin
did. Still, from the mid-'60s through the '80s, the Manhattans maintained a high quality of smooth, sweet soul harmonies -- no matter how times and tastes changed. Early on it was supper-club soul akin to the Impressions
, then after vocal frontman George Smith
died and was replaced with Gerald Alston
, slick Philly soul from Sigma Sound. While there, the group recorded the songs that led to the highest chart placing of its career -- the pop and R&B number one "Kiss and Say Goodbye" in 1976. They continued charting high during the '70s, and notched their second Top Ten hit in 1980 with "Shining Star." Although the Manhattans were superseded in the '70s by a myriad of acts doing more exciting music, their '60s output for the Carnival label holds up very well indeed; it may not equal the high example of the Impressions, but the band's high-tenor harmonies were just as exquisite.