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Nino Tempo & April Stevens/Nino Tempo/April Stevens: Hey Baby! The Nino Tempo & April Stevens Anthology

Album Notes

It's a bit difficult to make a consistent anthology of Nino Tempo & April Stevens' recordings, as the pair's career was so long and encompassed several quite different styles. This 24-song CD (including a few solo sides by Stevens and Tempo, though mostly devoted to duo efforts) might be the best collection to date, however. It includes most (though not all) of their best-known songs, and focuses mostly on the mid-'60s period that's of most interest to rock listeners. This does have some material before and after that era, notably a couple of almost novelty-like over the top sex kitten Stevens solo singles from the 1950s (1953's "Soft Warm Lips" and 1959's "Teach Me Tiger"); the unexpectedly funky, almost Malo-like Tempo 1973 instrumental "Sister James"; and a 1993 soft jazz outing, "Amazon River." But the emphasis is on those few years when the unlikely duo, whose career stretched back well into the pre-rock generation, found some pop/rock success with updates of the standards "Deep Purple" and "Whispering," then moving into hipper Phil Spector-influenced productions. The 1966 Top 30 hit "All Strung Out" is the best of these, but a few others hold up well too, especially the eccentric bagpipe-driven version of "I Love How You Love Me"; "Follow Me," which closely follows the arrangement that Lyme & Cybelle used on their minor Warren Zevon-penned folk-rock hit; the gentle, almost folky "The Habit of Lovin' You Baby," which compares well to similar sides by the Mamas & the Papas; and the extremely Beach Boys-like Tempo solo track "Boys Town (Where My Broken Hearted Buddies Go)." On her 1967 solo single "Wanting You," Stevens even moved into credible blue-eyed soul. If there's any mild criticism to be noted, it's that they sometimes made variations on a theme that were too obvious, as when they followed up "Deep Purple" with a quite similar-sounding update of another standard, "Whispering." But generally they made adventurous and quite enjoyable recordings on the poppier side of pop/rock. They're showcased well on this package, with detailed liner notes that include many vintage illustrations and comments from both Tempo and Stevens. ~ Richie Unterberger


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