Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dante's Divine Harmony

 You've probably never heard of Ron Dante, but you've almost certainly heard him.

Ron Dante managed to have two songs in the top forty at the same time, neither of which had his name on them. The first was "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies; the second was "Tracy" by the Cuff Links. "Sugar, Sugar" was number one in the US for four weeks in September and October 1969; "Tracy" rose to number nine in the US in October 1969.

So what does this have to do with Ron Dante? Well, he pretty much is the Archies and the Cuff Links, at least vocally; Dante sang all the male vocal parts in the Archies recordings (and in some cases even did falsetto voices for some of the supposed female vocal lines, such as the female lead on the hit song "Jingle Jangle," although Toni Wine joined Dante to perform the female vocals on the aforementioned "Sugar, Sugar." Wine later went on to write "Candida and "Knock Three Times" for Tony Orlando.), and Dante did all the lead and harmony vocals for the first Cuff Links album, Tracy. Pretty amazing pop stuff--energetic, bouncy, build on strong harmonies (and in the case of the Cuff Links, some great counterpoint vocals as well)--I particularly loved the Cuff Links album, and still consider it one of my ten favorite albums.

A week or so ago, as I was replaying the Cuff Links album, I began thinking that I'd like to hear more Ron Dante stuff--and the I realized that I could do just that if I'd just track down copies of the albums The Archies, Everything's Archie, Jingle Jangle, and Sunshine. I already had The Archie's Greatest Hits, but I hadn't even thought about the fact that those other albums had other Ron Dante recordings on them that I hadn't heard (unless I had heard bits and pieces of them on the old Archies cartoon show).

Tracking them down wasn't that hard. I found all of them at very good prices, and ironically all four albums arrived today! (Unfortunately, the USPS thought less of Everything's Archie than the others, and they expressed their opinion by bending the box until the album cracked, so I'll have to find another copy of that one.)

While the songs are less polished than the Cuff Links stuff, they're still a lot of fun. I've listened to the other three, and have enjoyed the mix of familiar hits and less familiar songs. I've also been amused that songs like "Waldo P. Emerson Jones," which could have been a great Monkees song, made it onto an Archies album; it's far from typical Archies fare, with its wry pop-cultural references. Songs like "Sugar and Spice" also show a bit of the tight vocal production that typified Dante's work on the Cuff Links album.

And just this evening I learned that there's another album, Ron Dante (Brings You Up), that was recorded after the Cuff Links album; I've ordered it and hope to give it a listen sometime next week. (And yes, I know that there's also a second Cuff Links album, but it turns out that Dante didn't own the rights to the name, and after a falling out with Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss, who did own those rights, Dante was replaced by Rupert Holmes for most of the songs on the second album). I'll let you know what I think of that one once it shows up... but I think I'm already inclined to enjoy it, based on how much fun I've had listening to these other albums.

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