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Pop Reviews : Soul Groups at Wiltern

February 08, 1988|CONNIE JOHNSON

The Manhattans, the Dramatics and the Chi-Lites, who appeared Saturday night at the Wiltern Theatre, have all been R & B favorites for years. In a concert setting they tend to deliver lively, textbook examples of the genre--though they might not include as many pages as you'd get from, say, the Temptations, still the premier black male soul group in terms of consistent hit-making prowess.

The Manhattans have scored only two major hits in their 23-year history: 1976's "Let's Just Kiss and Say Goodby" and 1980's sweetly melodic "Shining Star." So the group padded its set with drama-drenched hits by Gladys Knight & the Pips ("Neither One of Us Wants to Be the First to Say Goodby"), Billy Vera ("At This Moment") and Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle ("On My Own," which they sang with one of the promising new entries in R & B/pop, Regina Belle). The quartet performed these songs--particularly "At This Moment"--with more passion than it applied to its own signature material.

The Dramatics would have benefited from a better sound check before its set. Nearly drowned out by a seven-piece band, lead singer L. J. Reynolds had to work extra hard to make a soul-sweetened smoothie like "I Can't Get Over You" have any impact. The opening Chi-Lites deserve the golden oldie award of the night for making "Oh Girl" sound as fresh as it did when the group recorded the hit back in 1972.

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