If Heaven is missing an angel, then that winged spirit must be smiling down on the brothers Tavares. They've really broken through internationally and plans are afoot for them to visit here later in the year.
WELL, DON'T say we didn't warn you! Any long-serving B&S 'inmate' will vouch for the fact that over the last two years, we have literally promised you that the Tavares brothers would make their mark in this country. OK, so it took a little longer than we would have liked but the brothers have made up for it in a big way as their "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel" pounds its way up the B&S charts on its way to the very top (that's another promise!).
"We're just glad that it happened," explained an excited Ralph Tavares, who had very thoughtfully gotten up very early in the morning so that we could talk with him at a sensible time by European standards. Unfortunately for Ralph, his first call that morning had been from one Frank Elson and that's enough to get anyone off to a bad start!
Fortunately, though, Frank had selected a completely different batch of questions for Ralph so he was most impressed at the ingenuity of B&S' staff — it goes without saying that we're the finest, Frank — right?
Anyway, back to Ralph, who is, after all, the subject of this feature: "We've been trying to make it over there ever since we started, man, but we kept on missing out and we never could understand why. I know that "It Only Takes A Minute" nearly made it and now there's a cover version on your charts so you can appreciate why we felt we were doomed in Britain!"
In fact, in terms of musical eras it literally is third time lucky for the five brothers from New Bedford, Massachusetts (which their bio insists is the fishing capital of America!).
They started out their recording career at Capitol with a Johnny Bristol produced album and that gave birth to their initial hit singles, "Check It Out" and "That's The Sound Lonely Makes".
Their second and third LPs were produced by Brian Lambert and Dennis Potter and they covered hits such as the beautiful "She's Gone" and "It Only Takes A Minute", both of which turned Gold when they passed the million sales mark.
And now comes the third age via Freddie Perren, who quietly must rank as the producer of the moment.
Apart from producing the Tavares' "Sky High" LP, he has also been responsible for the Miracles' "Love Machine" single and "City Of Angels" LP and The Sylvers golden return to the business via "Boogie Fever".
"We actually came together with Freddie indirectly via the Sylvers," Ralph pointed out. "Apparently, despite the success, The Sylvers had some sort of problem with Freddie and so the company suggested he might like to try a session with us because we were both on the same label — us and The Sylvers, I mean. And we all just clicked right away and we feel as though we have finally found the perfect producer/artist marriage.
"The E.S.P. between Freddie and us is amazing, just amazing. He seemed to know exactly what we needed and the whole thing has been keyed towards getting an album that is as close to perfection as we have ever been. It was nice, too, to talk and discuss the album before we even started to record it because that allowed us some kind of control over the material.
"Yes, I'd say it is easily our best album so far but now that the relationship has been cemented, we all feel we'll top it with the next album."
Until this stage of their career, the brothers have been basically a singles act and so the runaway international success of "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel" had to come really.
"Well, it's the closest we have ever come to making a straight pop record," Ralph admitted. "But Freddie felt that if we were going to go looking for a hit then the bigger it became the better. And we knew that we had to outdo the three previous hits — and that would be difficult.
"In fact, we selected the eight songs for the album from an original short list of more than thirty songs but we feel that we picked the strongest collection. "Heaven" was a hit right from the first moment. As soon as Freddie played us the basic tracks, we knew it was a hit and that doesn't happen too often for anybody. And we learned afterwards that if there had been a little more time, Freddie was going to add a couple of little things that would have made it even more pop.
"The song was written by Freddie and Kenny St. Lewis and that's the same team that worked with the Miracles and the Sylvers. Freddie, of course, was responsible for the original Jackson 5 hits, too. We only hope now that we don't let him down in the future because, like I say, this could be the perfect marriage for us all."
Despite a string of big hits and two Gold singles, Tavares are not really accepted as a supergroup yet. Maybe the lack of album penetration is the basic reason.
"But then we don't have the longevity of success that groups like the O'Jays or Temptations have," Ralph put forward. "OK, so we've been out there for twelve years but it's only the last four years that have seen us have any success. People in and out of the business still look upon us as being relatively new and after twelve years we are not going to be in a hurry to prove them wrong.
"We seem to get stronger with every year that goes by. It all started with "Check It Out" and then we increased with "She's Gone" and then progressed with "It Only Takes A Minute" until the point where we are today."
Incidentally, the five brothers — Ralph, Chubby. Pooch, Butch and Tiny — have another brother, Victor, who is about to make his solo debut on Spring Records.
"He sang with us before we started making records," Ralph pointed out, "but he was never a group singer. He always had that solo urge and we're keeping our fingers crossed that he makes it now."
Another of the brothers' major achievements over the past few months has been their unqualified success in Japan.
"I can tell you, it took us by surprise," Ralph laughed. "We really didn't know that we were that big over there. They not only knew our hits but even the ones that weren't that successful at home in the States. It seems that we are one of the top acts over there and they were into every song we have ever recorded.
"In fact, once we got there, we had to vary our show to include some of the songs — like "That's The Sound That Lonely Makes", for example — that we have taken out of our show in the States. Well, they're talking now about us coming to Britain in September so we are going to be ready for you to want numbers that we've forgotten!
"I understand that you've already decided what will be the follow-up in England to "Heaven" because the DJs at the discos are playing "Don't Take Away The Music".
One of the misleading things about the sleeve of the "Sky High" LP is the reference that the guys are a California group because of the constant and blatant reference to Hollywood.
"No, we're still living in Boston," Ralph insisted, "and I can't see us ever moving away. Certainly not to Los Angeles because, to be really honest, we don't like it that much there. Life is so different and we're happy living the way we do at home."
Maybe when they experience a British welcome, they'll give more consideration to making an Eastern move rather than a Western one to California. Certainly, the reception that they are certain to receive will make them feel that they are at home.