Monday, April 28, 2008

Gene Chandler - Duke Of Earl

(Vee-Jay, 1962)

Everyone in town knows “Duke of Earl” for its famous doo-wop “Duke-Duke-Duke-Duke of Earl” chant, but don’t ignore its smooth lead vocal and boastful lyrics, especially the wonderful “As I walk through this world / Nothing can stop / The Duke of Earl.” And I’ll be durned if Gene Chandler himself didn’t take to strutting through these lands with his very own cane, cape, and monocle after the song hit it big! Can’t blame him; it’s a solid look. The B-side is “Kissin’ In the Kitchen,” and here Chandler ditches the doo-wop elements of the A for full-on snappy soul ala Jackie Wilson. It’s not raunchy or percussive enough to be a true raver, but it does make for a passable little party number and shows that Chandler – who ended up sticking around through the disco era – had some tricks up his sleeve beyond that doggone delightfully-offbeat “Duke of Earl.” Listening to the single, it’s strange to hear something seemingly so far removed from the British Invasion and still detect the roots of the Beatles: “Anna (Go to Him),” a cover of which appears on Please Please Me, has a chorus that utilizes very similar vocal stylings and phrasings as “Duke.” Huh!

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