And the Beat Goes On (Smooth Soul Survivor)

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    "And the Beat Goes On"

    [Song written by William Shelby/Stephen Shockley/Leon F. Sylvers III]

    "And the Beat Goes On"

    [Song written by William Shelby/Stephen Shockley/Leon F. Sylvers III]

    That timeless R & B classic and latest Smooth Soul Survivor ‘And The Beat Goes On' is from the 1980 self titled platinum selling album by The Whispers.  It's the track by which many still identify the band yet at the time of its release The Whispers had already been in the business for over seventeen years.  It was in 1963 that The Whispers began their legendary career.  Formed in Los Angeles by twins Walter and Wallace Scott, Nicholas Caldwell, Marcus Hutson, and Gordy Harmon, their big break came when they were discovered by Lou Bedell of Dore Records.  It was Bedell who came up with the name of The Whispers and the group recorded nine singles on the Dore label between 1964 and 1967.  At that time they were working predominately in the Bay Area and their fame grew while performing in a series of what was known as ‘The Battle of the Bands' where they competed against other local acts.  In 1969 they released ‘The Time Will Come' for the small L.A. based label Soul Clock Records and in 1971, following a switch to Janus Records, enjoyed their first Top 10 R&B hit with ‘Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong'.  In that same year Gordy Harmon decided to leave the group.  He was replaced by Leaveil Degree who had previously sung with The Friends of Distinction.

    Over the next two decades The Whispers produced a string of hits and emerged as one of their generations leading protagonists of quiet storm.  They were the first artists featured on the newly formed Soul Train label and the bands seventies albums ‘One For The Money' and ‘Open Up Your Love' both caught the eye.  Even better, their 1978 release ‘Headlights' produced two Billboard Top 20 R&B chart singles, ‘(Let's Go) All the Way' and ‘(Olivia) Lost and Turned Out'.  It was a clear breakthrough as although The Whispers had scored a couple top ten hits prior to this album most of their songs, in spite of their quality, had floundered in the latter half of the Top 100.

    That said, by 1980, and the release of the album ‘The Whispers', the band was at a low ebb.  Soul Train Records had morphed into Solar Records and, despite being the flagship act of manager Dick Griffey, The Whispers had, in common with other soul bands of the time, become sidelined by the disco boom that continued to dominate the charts.  Solar Records had expanded its roster to include Shalamar and Dynasty and most of the label's hits came courtesy of songwriter/producer Leon F. Sylvers III.  He was assigned to work with the group and chose for them a song he had co-written with Stephen Shockley and William Shelby called ‘And the Beat Goes On'.  As a single it went on to sell a million, enjoyed 5 weeks at number one on the R&B charts and climbed to 19 on the pop charts in the spring of 1980.  As well as containing ‘And The Beat Goes On', ‘The Whispers' also included ‘A Song For Donny', written by Carrie Lucas in memory of Donny Hathaway.  ‘The Whispers' proved to be the bands most successful selling album although ‘Just Gets Better with Time' from 1987 also went platinum.  It featured the R&B number 1 hit ‘Rock Steady', their first (but not last) collaboration with Kenneth ‘Babyface' Edmonds.

    In the 1990's The Whispers cut two albums with Capitol including the 1995 ‘Toast To The Ladies' that they dedicated to women everywhere.  In addition, expanding their creative horizons, brothers Walter and Scotty released the critically acclaimed duet album ‘My Brothers Keeper' in 1993.  It produced an R&B hit with a cover of the Intruders' ‘I Wanna Know Your Name'.  In 1997 the group moved to Interscope Records where they once again featured the works of Babyface with their album ‘Songbook, Vol. 1: The Songs of Babyface'.

    Due to ill health Marcus Hutson stopped performing with the group in 1989 and in 2000, when he passed on, The Whispers vowed never to replace him.  The group still performs around the world to thousands of loyal fans with a line up that remains as Walter Scott, Wallace Scott, Nicholas Caldwell, and Leaveil Degree.  They have become a sell out act at the hotels and casinos of Las Vegas and in 2006 released their latest CD ‘For Your Ears Only'.  Because of all that and more ‘And The Beat Goes On' never really went away.  It survives in their live shows and on numerous compilations.  Not only that, in 2006 it has received a huge new lease of life by being included on sax man Gerald Albright's current CD ‘New Beginnings'.  For several reasons, this version is an absolute triumph.  Firstly Albright remains faithful to the original by the inspirational use on background vocals of Whispers founder members Walter and Wallace Scott.  Just as important he uses the production genius of Rex Rideout and his own exceptionally funky playing to keep it sounding very fresh indeed.  This cover really shines and is highly recommended.

    Much like The Whispers, ‘And The Beat Goes On' is a true Smooth Soul Survivor.

    Denis Poole.  December 2006.

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