The southern soul genre is dominated by solo singers, with only a few groups having made their presence felt down the years. One of the few that have are the Masqueraders, whose recordings have thrilled connoisseurs for decades. The ‘Raders (as they like to be known) hailed from Dallas, Texas, but their most admired records were cut in Memphis, including their signature song ‘I Ain’t Got To Love Nobody Else’, a 1969 R&B and pop chart hit on Bell Records. The quintet continued to make fine records for many years for labels such as Hi and Isaac Hayes’ post-Stax venture, Hot Buttered Soul.
The Masqueraders were the only act to record for Hot Buttered Soul besides Isaac Hayes and his band the Movement. In the space of just over a year Hayes produced two albums for the group that were a mirror image of his own recordings – lushly arranged and featuring the consummate musicianship of the Movement underpinning the Masqueraders’ beautifully crafted harmonies.
“Everybody Wanna Live On” was the first and most successful, spawning two R&B chart hits, including the original version of what is now considered a vocal group classic, their own composition ‘(Call Me) The Traveling Man’. The other hit from the set was a sumptuous take on the Shirelles’ ‘Baby It’s You’, rearranged in a manner that was so different from the original that even its co-author Burt Bacharach may have had trouble recognising it. The song is one of only a couple the group recorded in their 50-year career that isn’t their own.
The album was released at a time when disco was beginning to stamp its boogie shoes all over soul music. Despite the presence of a couple of uptempo offerings, including the title track, it only charted modestly and didn’t get the recognition it deserved. Both of the group’s Hot Buttered Soul albums have been out of print for the best part of 40 years. It’s to be hoped the other, “Love Anonymous”, will join this one in the Ace catalogue before too long.
At a time when most of their peers have retired or are no longer around, it’s pleasing to note three of the original Masqueraders remain together, still performing whenever and wherever they can and singing many of the songs from this excellent album.
By Tony Rounce