Liner Note Author: Bill Dahl.
RCA decided to leap into the flourishing blues and R&B marketplace in 1954 via the new imprint Groove. This subsidiary didn't last long. By February 1957, RCA folded the label, whose lone hit -- Mickey & Sylvia's "Love Is Strange" -- wasn't enough to keep it afloat. A lot of the Groove sides stayed in the vault, which is what makes Bear Family's two 2016 reissues -- this R&B collection, Rockin' the Groove, and its down-and-dirty blues companion Groovin' the Blues -- so welcome. Rockin' the Groove tips the scales slightly toward the aftershocks of jump blues, devoted to hopping combos and swinging singers -- all the elements that made the R&B charts shake, rattle, and roll in the mid-'50s. Sometimes, there are echoes of big bands -- both in wailing horns and snazzy vocal arrangements -- but throughout these 35 sides, the rhythms snap and are sometime quite gritty, particularly when goosed along by fuzzed-up guitars as they are on Paul Williams' "Humpty Dumpty." There aren't a lot of stars here -- the closest is a teenage George Benson and maybe a Clayton Love -- but that's part of the appeal: all these also-rans and hits that never were wind up showing just how good Groove was at finding talent, even if they never found a way to market it. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine