The "5" Royales
Soul & Swagger: The Complete "5" Royales 1951-1967 (Rock Beat)
Reviewed by Scott Schinder, Fri., July 4, 2014
The "5" RoyalesSoul & Swagger: The Complete "5" Royales 1951-1967 (RockBeat)
In their Fifties heyday, the "5" Royales laid down a foundation for modern soul and R&B. Led by songwriter/guitarist Lowman Pauling, the North Carolina quintet's raunchy, romantic, jump-blues/gospel/doo-wop fusion, bound by the frontman's stinging guitar licks, cut a Rosetta stone for the African-American music that would follow. Royales tunes such as "Tell the Truth," "Think," and "Dedicated to the One I Love" became hits for Ray Charles, James Brown, and the Shirelles, respectively, and Pauling's swaggering playing style and inventive use of feedback inspired multiple generations of guitarists, including Stax axeman Steve Cropper, who released the Pauling/Royales tribute album Dedicated in 2011. The "5" Royales' vintage work arrives well anthologized by labels including Rhino and Ace, but RockBeat's 140-track Soul & Swagger presents the monumental document they deserve. Gathering all known recordings plus spin-off acts and Pauling session work on five CDs, with a copiously illustrated, exhaustively annotated 118-page hardbound book, it's an obvious labor of love for veteran reissue producer James Austin and annotator Bill Dahl, both of whom have gone the extra mile to make this a remarkable achievement. While casual listeners may be satisfied to skim the massive collection for early classics like "Monkey Hips and Rice," "The Slummer the Slum," "Baby Don't Do It," and "Help Me Somebody," Soul & Swagger's bountiful length rewards digging. Some of the Royales' lesser-known later work remains among their best, and rarities assembled here, including haunting gospel numbers by their early incarnation the Royal Sons Quintet, yield some genuine gems.