Straight from the vault
Sylvester Stewart, or more famously known as Sly Stone, is an American singer, songwriter, musician and producer who has been active in the music industry since 1952. He started mastering many instruments in his childhood and even dabbled in gospel music. In high school, Stone is said to have formed a doo-wop group called The Viscaynes and said group is what helped launch his over 60-year career. In 1966, Stone formed another musical group Sly and The Family Stone, which happened to be one of the first racially integrated groups in pop music at the time and included both male and female members.
This month, The Viscaynes & Friends was released after more than 50 years since the songs were originally recorded. This project mainly features unreleased tracks by The Viscaynes, as well as a few tracks from The Individuals and The Precisions, who were all produced under George Motola.
The album opens with a Viscaynes track titled “Help Me With My Broken Heart” that holds the classic old-school sound accompanied by pretty harmonization throughout the song, with a prominent guitar and a flare of trumpets towards the end. The most notable track of the project is “Yellow Moon” also by the Viscaynes, which embodies the essence of what doo-wop is with its incredible harmonization and vocalization as well as very minimal instrumentation. This track happens to be the one hit the group achieved before they disbanded.
“Mama Told Me” is one of the two tracks by The Precisions and is almost acapella sounding with the singers using different vocal techniques to replace the instrument sounds. The song has some strange vocalization choices which possibly makes it the most unique one of them.
One of the last tracks is “Heavenly Angel” which is a track that was quite popular during its initial release in the ’60s and was eventually taken over by the sister duo Patience and Prudence. So with lyrics like “Heavenly angel/ how can I make you mine?/ heavenly angel/ I love you all the time” and pretty female harmonies, the song may be familiar to even a casual listener.
The Viscaynes & Friends radiates a warm, feel-good vibe and is perfect for those who are fans of the oldies and classics. While an album like this may not appeal to the masses, doo-wop fans and Sly Stone stans will enjoy this authentic piece of music history.