The Valiants

A Los Angeles group named after the Prince Valiant comic strip, the Valiants consisted of Sheridan "Rip" Spencer (tenor), Brice Coefield (baritone), Billy Storm (nee Spicer, tenor and bass), and Chester Pipkin (tenor and guitar) when these songs were recorded in 1957 and 1958 under the supervision of Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, a one-time A&R man for Specialty Records. Although he was never officially their manager, the music industry veteran did help them secure several independent studio sessions in an attempt to get them a recording contract. Marv Goldberg's booklet notes cite a disagreement between Blackwell and his employer at the time as the reason that the Valiants never recorded for Specialty. His efforts first led to a lone 45 that came out on Aladdin (or perhaps its Lamp imprint) with the group's name, however, being changed to the Gents. After that single went nowhere and Blackwell left Specialty for Keen Records (also bringing Sam Cooke in tow), the Valiants were finally able to record and have releases issued under their real name. Blackwell utilized a number of top-notch studio musicians during recording sessions including drummer Earl Palmer as well as pianists Ernie Freeman and Googie Rene. It is possible that they appear on some of these tracks in various combinations. What is certain is that the 1957 session (which yielded the first six songs on this CD) included Don Harris and Dewey Terry (of Don and Dewey fame) respectively on bass and piano/overdubbed guitar. The title track is absolutely majestic. Although Storm's lead vocals and the group's harmonies are superb, it is the work of the backing musicians that help distinguish "This Is the Night" from other similar recordings from the era. Interestingly enough, Blackwell was the co-author of "Good Golly Miss Molly." Although Little Richard's better-known hit version was recorded earlier while Bumps was still with Specialty, the Valiants' take on this classic bears the distinction of having been released first. Although this might be sacrilege to some, I think their rendition is better. Storm's singing is great, but it's Terry's incendiary guitar solo that puts this one over the top. "Lover, Lover" and "Walkin' Girl" both feature prominent Latin influences in their rhythms, resulting from Blackwell's association with a Nicaraguan instrumental group. These are about the only instances where the Valiants noticeably sound similar to Africa - the band into which they would eventually evolve - who also incorporated Latin percussion instruments into their distinctive Los Angeles sound. The intense "Frieda, Frieda," featuring more scorching guitar leads, sounds as if it were cut from the same cloth as "Miss Molly," while the sweet "Temptation of My Heart" is in the same bag as "This Is the Night." The two songs from the group's last session in 1958, "We Knew" and "Please Wait My Love," on the other hand, come off as a bit too saccharine for their own good. The Valiants included several future members of the band Africa, who would go on to record the landmark Music from "Lil Brown" LP, one of the greatest black psychedelic albums from the late 1960s. Read more on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.