Sisters Irene and Doreen Chanter made a name for themselves as backing singers with some of the biggest names of the Seventies, but they themselves had their own career as The Chanter Sisters. But their career started several years ahead of that, when music publisher Dick James discovered them. He would introduce the sisters to his latest signing, Elton John, who provided them with some newly written songs. Birds Of A Feather: The Page One Recordings compiles the sisters’ rare sole album and a pair of bonus tracks.
Birds Of A Feather initially began in the mid-1960s as The Chanters, a sibling band, with brothers providing the backing. Though signed to CBS Records, they released four singles with limited success. When they sought new management with Dick James, the organization wasn’t interested in promoting the group as a family act, instead choosing to make the sisters the focal point of the group. In 1969, they would release a now highly sought-after debut single, the fun “Blacksmith Blues,” backed with an original number, “Sing My Song And Pray,” in preparation for their debut album, which was recorded with a budding young producer named Stuart Epps, just then starting his career.
Naturally, with their connection to Dick James, the duo was given the opportunity to record a handful of Elton John numbers. The choices were inspired, as their interpretations were superb; “Take Me To The Pilot,” by now a standard, at the time a freshly written song, is given a Gospel arrangement that highlights just how indebted John was to R&B. “Border Song,” another number on the way to becoming a classic, doesn’t stray too far from the original, while the lesser-known “Country Comfort” is another superb Gospel number, and “Bad Side Of The Moon” is the funky piano-driven rock that would soon make John a household name. The R&B production isn’t surprising, considering their penchant for American Soul covers, with their takes on Sam Cooke’s “One More Time” and Booker T & The MG’s “All God’s Children Got Soul” being highlights. Not that they weren’t good songwriters; Doreen contributed a handful of original material, and it’s all impressive; “Take The World” and “Leaving The Ghetto” are funky soul numbers, while “What Is Life” and “Get It Together” show that they were definitely simpatico with the young songwriting team with whom they shared management.
As good as Birds Of A Feather was, unfortunately it didn’t attain the success the label expected. Thus, when Page One folded shortly after the album’s release, so too did Birds Of A Feather. The group would revive The Chandler Sisters moniker, and would have a modest recording career and minor chart success with the disco number “Sideshow.” Both sisters would also become well-respected and sought-after backing vocalists for many big names, and are still working today. Even though Birds Of A Feather feels like a missed opportunity, it wasn’t a complete miss, as their natural talents would eventually be recognized and are still highly regarded.
Birds Of A Feather: The Page One Recordings is available now from RPM Recordings.
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