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Anthony & The Imperials – 1966 – Payin’ Our Dues

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Brooklyn’s Little Anthony And The Imperials are best known for their mid 60s sweet soul ballads ‘Hurt So Bad‘ and ‘Goin Out Of My Head‘ though on the Northern scene they’re revered for the much more energized ‘Better Use Your Head‘. 

The group’s mentor Teddy Randazzo helmed the set and the style he perfected for the group bridged perfectly the doo-wop flavours with which the foursome had started their careers and the new, emerging sweet symphonic soul that was to hit its peak with Thom Bell.

For ‘Payin’ Our Dues’, Randazzo took the group to Veep Records but he kept the musical formula much the same. The LP boasts more superb, lush balladry with ‘It’s Not The Same‘ echoing the template of ‘Goin’ Out Of My Head‘. There’s also two great up tempo moments –the aforementioned ‘Better Use Your Head‘ and the equally uplifting ‘Gonna Fix You Good‘ which itself became something of a Northern soul classic and it’s no surprise that both owe something to the Motown sound that was dominating the business in 1966.

More than 45 years old  now but it stands as a great testament to a sadly underrated group.

A1 Better Use Your Head 2:55
A2 Call Me the Joker 2:47
A3 Good for a Lifetime 3:08
A4 Cry My Eyes Out 2:59
A5 You Better Take It Easy Baby 2:32
A6 Hungry Heart 2:05
B1 It’s Not the Same 2:20
B2 The Wonder of It All 2:43
B3 Gonna Fix You Good 2:30
B4 Lost Without You 2:58
B5 You’re Not That Girl Anymore 3:28
B6 Your Own Little World 2:52

Review by mag1c_hands

 “Payin’ Our Dues” is one of the most sophisticated and, yes, progressive albums in Little Anthony and the Imperials’ career. Most people familiar with their earlier work wouldn’t assume that the Imperials could keep up with the changing times, but here we have complex melodies twisting and turning their way through an onslaught of production touches so dense that they occasionally give an ever so slight impression of psychedelic soul. Northern soul fans have cherrypicked 3 tracks from this album released as singles, but that doesn’t do the rest of the album justice as it is remarkably cohesive. Little Anthony’s measured, delicate vocals remain an acquired taste but if you can acclimate yourself to them you will quickly discover that he was actually a very skilled vocalist. 

The album opens with the propulsive “Better Use Your Head“. Sounding like “Going Out Of My Head” sped up to the point that it’s almost running off the rails, this is a cooker that maintains its momentum by way of Anthony’s strident vocals. Teddy Randazzo’s characteristic orchestra-on-steroids production outdoes itself here with harp glissandos abounding and the post-chorus stilted timpani figure supporting Little Anthony’s impassioned pleading. 

Listen up this amazing Northern Soul Classic

Call Me the Joker” provides a good aural illustration of the complexity on display. The song starts off as a ballad with the verse twisting and turning right when you don’t expect it, briefly changing tempo, before transitioning back to the verse and then brilliantly transitioning to a slightly faster chorus. After the slightly too MOR-ish “Good for a Lifetime“, every remaining track is its own little gem. Highlights include “Cry My Eyes Out“, “Gonna Fix You Good” (covered by the Alan Bown Set), and “It’s Not the Same“. Each song is packed with enough french horn to fill a swimming pool. 

My only complaint would be that most of the songs tend to fade right as Little Anthony starts letting loose. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let Anthony tear a song to pieces until 1969’s “Out of Sight, Out of Mind“.

That album isn’t nearly as crystalline as “Payin’ Our Dues” is though. If you’re not afraid of ballads and harp glissandos, this is the Imperials album to go for after you’ve heard the hits.