Dave Revels Arranges and Sings the Latest Charlie Thomas Release “Be My Rock”
By Danny Coleman of Rock On Radio
Charlie Thomas rose to prominence as a member of the fabulous vocal group The Drifters whose seemingly endless string of hits are still found on the airwaves today. So, it comes as no surprise that now in his eighth decade; Thomas has emerged with yet what’s destined to become another classic called, “Be My Rock.”
Written by the late Doc Pomus along with Phillip Namanworth, who stated in a recent press release,
“Doc Pomus and I wrote the song in 1975, it was one of eight that we worked on together. He had the title and then the lyrics and melody flowed organically. It’s rich with beautiful harmonies and very purposely has a gospel, soulful blues character, it’s the gospel of being in love and feeling alive,” the song’s current revival came about due to Namanworth mentioning it to another musician named David Backer who, along with Arnie Brown and “Mad” Mike Cullen were in Thomas’ band. So, with Namanworth’s approval; they set out to do the song and have it included on the twentieth anniversary re-release of “American Masters Sing The Blues” due out in the coming year of 2023 on Mad Hands Records.
The next step was to bring in someone with experience to do backing vocals along with the vocal arrangements; enter former Drifter’s band mate, Dave Revels who was beyond thrilled for the opportunity and already familiar with the studio and its personnel.
Recently, Revels spoke about the recording, his relationship with Thomas and The Jam Room in Howell, NJ where it all took place. So; how did he get involved with Charlie Thomas and the current project?
“It started before when I was in The Persuasions and they taught me a lot when I was young and in the acapella group and that sort of set me up to be at the right skill level to make my audition with The Drifters and Charlie back in the early ‘80s,” he began. “So, I’ve worked with Charlie for quite a number of years and with The Drifters for years; basically, it goes back to “There Goes My Baby.” I got the call to work on the song a year ago and it was a great unexpected gift because it’s nice when you can come full circle in your career and to work with a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also somebody that you know personally. So, I jumped at the opportunity to do the vocal arrangements on the song. I just know it is a great song and I am thrilled to be a part of it and thrilled that I was asked to do the vocal arrangements and the background; it is an honor to be asked to do this.”
One of the most pleasant surprises in music is when old material is “Discovered” or stumbled upon and either released for the first time or re-released with today’s modern technology enhancing the product. Revels says that finding the track and adding a “Life-experienced” Thomas were keys to the songs new, fresh sound.
“As a songwriter you are constantly writing things down and trying to find different things and then you go on to the next idea and then one day you’ll be cleaning up and you’ll come across something again that you overlooked. I think this song fits into one of those category levels as a gem that was overlooked and I guess anybody can hear the maturity in this song. Charlie’s voice is full of life experiences and all those things that had come to him in their own set time and the right time. So, Charlie’s voice is rich with all those years of experience and you can hear it in his voice; he’s not just mouthing words, he’s experiencing this.”
With Thomas’ parts done, Revels was now tasked to arrange and put backing vocals on the piece; a process that he thoroughly enjoyed. How did he go about it?
“As I’m doing the backgrounds and coming up with the parts, I’m listening to Charlie’s lead and it was like, oh wow, listen to that. It’s all about support, you know how it is when you’re doing a song and arranging and writing it; it’s all about supporting different layers of the song, the melody, the vocal and all of that stuff that goes into the creation of a recording. So, finding a voice that blended with myself, because it was just me and another person that did all of the background vocals, his name was Samuel White and he was with a group called The Joneses back in the ‘70s and he’s one of those people who has a great ear and you can give an idea to on the spot and he’ll run with it and you don’t have to keep going over and over it; he was my Baritone. He is a solid Baritone and he was able to give me the color to offset my voice. So, that’s the first thing and then listening to the song and being able to layer your own voice and another voice and be confident quick and having an engineer that is quick on the take and not an engineer that goes, oops, I didn’t get that. So, those are the things for me and we did those backgrounds in under three hours. I like to know what I’m doing before I get there so I really listen to the song a lot and work out parts in my head and I put it down on paper and then I go in. I needed to do this right because one voice is really going to make this thing and with my personal vocal range and register, I can hit the lows, the mids and the highs; that’s the process for me and then having a great engineer and a great room helps to get the product out.”
Using Revels and members of The Uptown Horns along with a top-notch studio crew at The Jam Room, “Be My Rock” came to life. Which poses the question; what does Thomas think of the finished product and what are the plans for it?
“Oh man, he was happy with it,” said an obviously pleased Revels, “For him and I it was coming back around full-circle because I left the group in 1990 to pursue other career opportunities and they went on; of course, you know The Drifters had many members in and out so they weren’t going to miss me for long because there’s always somebody coming in to sing with Charlie and Barry and so, to get this opportunity here was a nice feeling all around and he really felt good about it.”
“The song is up now so we will see how the song does because you know; everything is generated by the revenue to keep it going. So, that’s the first step; trying to get this song out there for the people to hear it and really listen to it and appreciate it. The main thing in this day and age where everybody seems to be 17 and younger on the radio, is that it’s really nice to see and to imagine that someone of Charlie’s stature, an Octogenarian, for him to get a hit record and for him to be recognized because he still has such a rich voice; not too many people can sing in such a subtle way in that regard and get their point across without having to scream at you. There are a lot of young people and artists who really get it because they do their homework but I think a lot of younger artists today dismiss the artists of the past and it’s a shame because there’s so much they could learn from listening to them. Some of the best teachers are records; records are the best teachers that you can have as a singer. I listen to where they take a breath, where they breathe into the phrase and where they exit the phrase; where they are setting the scheme of the rhythm and the color of the instruments and all that stuff and it’s a matter of listening; the biggest tool you have as an artist is your ears. I love it when you meet a young artist who gets it and I love collaboration; that’s the biggest way you get great work.”
“Be My Rock” is Thomas’ first new release in years and is a smooth bluesy, soulful piece that showcases his legendary vocal talents as well as offering up a different style for Drifters fans to digest. Quite often, when bands who’ve reached the pinnacle of their success in the past continue to perform today they do what are considered “Greatest Hits” tours and shows which sometimes can wear on the musicians as they perform the same or similar sets on a nightly basis. Revels has a different take on how he worked through those situations.
“I’ll tell you what it was, the audience brought you to life every night,” he stated emphatically. “Playing to different crowds in different cities, different countries and seeing everyone always kind of brought you to life. I’ll give you an example, it’s like when you go to vacation spot every year but then you bring a couple of friends along and they have never seen that vacation spot before and all of a sudden you watch them experience it through their eyes and all of a sudden you get a renewed joy for where you have been coming to forever. So, that’s really how it was and you’ve got to remember the generation of talent back then was steeped in live performances; that’s where they did their thing. The recordings came and that moment passed and the records were sustainable but at the same time it was the fact that they enjoyed being entertainers. So, no, you didn’t get tired, I think that kind of changes if they send you to Las Vegas where you’ve got all of those splashy arrangements and they throw horns on all the things; you know what it’s like if you go to Vegas, you know what I’m talking about but if you’re not doing it live in Vegas for an audience then the pureness of the song stays intact and when you’re singing them; you know they’re well-crafted songs man. The lyrics, the subject matter; it was an incredible body of work and The Drifters were one of the groups of that era that was blessed with great songwriters and talent to match. So, no, it doesn’t really get old but of course when a new song comes along that catches your attention you wanna sing it and so I’m glad that Charlie in his later years at this stage of life has a new song for people to hear.”
Now, about that “Familiarity” that was mentioned earlier?
“I’ve known the owner operator and engineer of that studio, The Ja Room, for 40 years; Arnie Brown. We are always on the same page and everybody should know that because he runs a great studio; it’s a great 24-track state-of-the-art room, great room to work and record live; for bands too. He knows the language of communication between us and he kind of anticipates where I’m going to go because he’s heard me do it many times so there’s a familiarity there and for me it’s all about ease and comfort. I actually recorded a song with Jorma Kaukonen there. He and I wrote a song called, “Birds and Sleeping Dogs” and it’s a beautiful acoustical recording just him on the guitar and me and that room was perfect for it because it just captured the sound perfectly.”
Revels will not be resting any time soon as he has his own music and some other things keeping him busy.
“I have a single that’s on the charts of the Beach Music 45 chart down South and it’s called, “Anytime You’re Close To Me.” It’s an R & B song and it was on the charts at number 19 and of course I’m also promoting the song I did with Jorma from Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna which is out on all the platforms and that’s what’s driving me now. I’m also the producer and creative director for a nationally touring Motown tribute production called Shadows of the ‘60s that will involve tours all over the country and the world. We recently did a show in Jamaica and those are some of the things I’m doing and of course, being a family man is at the core of it all.”
To hear the single, please visit https://madhandsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/american-masters-sing-the-blues nd to discover more about Rave Revels, please visit http://daverevels.com/ .
That’s it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week….ROCK ON!