Personnel: Richard Barwell (piano); Gary Powell (double bass); Lance Larsen (drums).
Liner Note Author: Steve Webb.
Recording information: SRW Studios, England.
Photographers: Robert Rawson; Rebecca Goodrich; Susannah Fields; Simon K. .
British doo wop revivalists the Roomates come into 25 years of harmony and nostalgia with Dawning, their 11th album since forming in the mid-'80s. Like most of their other efforts, the album is a fully loaded trove of selections from the late-'50s and early-'60s vocal pop era, focusing on the squeaky-clean white doo wop sounds of acts like Jay & the Americans or the band's idols Dion & the Belmonts. Over the album's extensive 28 cuts, the band pays homage to such acts as well as peppering the playlist with nine original compositions. Faithful covers of classic oldies radio fodder like the Beach Boys' "In My Room" and the often covered "She Cried" find the Mates getting into some pretty complex harmonies without derailing the songs' familiar arrangements with too many extras. The occasional inclusion of a more obscure track like Andy Williams' unexpectedly heavy-hearted and spooky "Music to Watch Girls By" keeps the disc from veering too far into county-fair territory. Even still, the fairly formulaic songwriting turns render even the lesser-known tracks and Roomates originals pretty repetitive before the record even hits the halfway point. Updated production values also detract somewhat from the overall picture on Dawning. The group's sound -- so mired in dreamy nostalgia and times gone by -- is drained of some of its impact with MIDI-derived bell sounds and crystal-clear vocal compression. Even the vintage-sounding reverby guitars and sock-hop drumbeats come off a little hollow, trying hard to re-create a music that owed much of its magic to the muddy recording techniques of its time. While the songs themselves are blemish-free and clearly the product of a lovingly honed craft, Dawning is best appreciated track by track. When taken on as a whole album, even the most enthusiastic doo wop fan might have a hard time staying engaged for the entire duration. ~ Fred Thomas