A Review: The Alley Cats purr like silk

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

A Review: The Alley Cats purr like silkThe Alley Cats’ rich, vibrant sound makes you forget there are no instruments other than human voices. The doo-wop ensemble, sang à cappella to a delighted audience on Feb. 5 at the Indian Wells Valley Concert Association’s second-to-last concert of the season.

Encouraging the audience to sing along, clap, snap fingers and dance in their seats, the group purred out classic ’50s and ’60s hits. The four group members include two tenors (John O’Campo and Armando “Mando” Fonseca), a baritone/bass (Michael Washington) and a bass (Royce “The Voice” Reynolds).

With the backing of 27 years of experience as a group, the four Cats launch easily into silky smooth harmony and comedy effects alike. The Cats’ melodic sound filled the auditorium nicely without being overpoweringly loud. I appreciated that. Their first song was “Who Wrote the Book of Love,” followed by “Shaboom, Shaboom,” “Stand By Me” and a rollicking version of “Barbara Ann.” Can you hear these songs playing inside your head at the very mention of the titles? So can I.

“We’re singing all over the country, making tens and tens of dollars,” quipped Fonseca, just before they launched into “Little Darling” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” complete with sound effects. Next came “Rama Lama Ding Dong,” “The Duke of Earl,” “Runaround Sue,” and a comedy version of “La Bamba.”

In ad-libbing an introduction for Reynolds’ “Elvis” imitation, Fonseca pronounced it an “Elvis aberration.” In his own spotlight, Reynolds crooned a passable version of “Don’t Be Cruel” while hamming it up in the first row to a lady chosen from the audience. After introducing “possibly the greatest love song ever written,” the Cats launched into a sultry version of “Only You.”

Calling Ridgecrest resident Roger Becker up on stage, the Cats announced it was Becker’s 72nd birthday, and that he was going to sing with the group. “Is he a good dancer?” asked Reynolds. “Yes!” some of the audience called out. The Cats led the audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to Becker, followed by a huge round of applause. He was awarded a free Alley Cats CD.

Then the group broke into “Blue Moon,” complete with dance movements in unison. Becker held his own, singing along with Reynolds on the bass solos. The audience applauded enthusiastically as Becker returned to his seat. Their final number was “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight.”

The audience awarded them a standing ovation.

The IWVCA’s last concert of the season will be The San Francisco Munich Trio on Thursday, Feb. 20. For more information, see www.iwvca.com or call 760-375-5600.

Story First Published: 2014-02-12