It's a travesty that Thee Midniters are not more well-known. I'm not suggesting that they are as good or influential as the Beatles or the Who, but they should certainly be mentioned in the same breath as Gerry and the Pacemakers or the Dave Clark Five.
Most of the twenty tracks on
Thee Midniters Greatest are originals and it is quickly evident that we're dealing with experienced musicians with talent for songwriting in addition to the interpretation skills evidenced on the first track, their almost-smash-hit version of "Land of a Thousand Dances" (sadly eclipsed by Cannibal and the Headhunters' version released the same year).
These eight Chicano multi-instrumentalists from East Los Angeles had a local top ten hit with the cruising anthem, "Whittier Blvd" (inspired by the Rolling Stones' "2120 South Michigan Boulevard" and still popular in the area today) that included several trademark aspects that set them apart from other bands of the era, particularly the use of brass instruments and a maniacal hyena-ish laugh.
With influences as varied as Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Henry Mancini, and B.B. King, as well as the Spanish music of their heritage, this is a band that has a more multi-layered sound than most. They proved they could rock with the best on "Whittier," their cover of Solomon Burke-penned "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," and the originals "Jump, Jive and Harmonize" and "Love Special Delivery." Plus, lead vocalist Little Willie G shows that his singing is just as well-suited to crooning ballads on tracks like "That's All," "I Need Someone," and "Don't Go Away."
In short, what we have here on
Thee Midniters Greatest is a perfect example of 1960s-era pop-soul song craftsmanship. Every one of these tracks would find an easy home on any oldies radio station. Once you hear one of these songs, you will just know you've heard it before, even though it's very likely you haven't.
This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on
The Green Man Review. Copyright 2003. Reprinted with permission.
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