The Friends of Distinction: Grazin’

The easy soul album behind the stellar funky hit

The Friends of Distinction were a Los Angeles vocal quartet, two men and two women, whose funky hit single, “Grazing in the Grass,” belied the smoother, easy soul of this debut album. Produced by John Florez, the group picked a lead vocalist from among the four to match each track, and then surrounded them with fetching harmonies. Their material ranged from Hugh Masekela’s title song (to which group founder/vocalist Harry Elston added lyrics) to a slow and sensual cover of Lennon & McCartney’s “And I Love Her.” They created a vocal jazz arrangement of Cole Porter’s “Lonesome Mood” that suggests Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, as does the waltz time “Baby I Could Be So Good at Loving You.” The parallel with the Fifth Dimension is reinforced by the group’s stellar cover of Laura Nyro’s “Eli’s Coming,” featuring a supercharged falsetto lead by Jessica Cleaves against intricate backing vocals and an arrangement that alternates between slow soul and fervent revival. The album’s second single “Going in Circles” charted into the Top 20 with a superb arrangement that combines strings, horns and woodwinds behind a feeling lead vocal and soulful harmonies. It’s a shame that the group’s follow-up album Highly Distinct was rushed out by the label, as given time to create, this debut shows how brilliantly they could select and sing light soul. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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