In the course of his job, Orlando came across a recording of "Candida." He didn't think the song was right for his own company so he suggested that it be taken to Bell Records, which specialized in flagrantly popular material. Bell passed on the tune as well, citing an unimpressive lead vocal. On the basis of Orlando's early hit singles, Bell executives suggested that he replace the lead vocal by dubbing his own voice onto the original instrumental track. He acceded but did not want his name associated with the single for fear of insulting his employer. The generic-sounding "Dawn" was chosen for the artist's tag, the record was released, and whaddya know. Bell Records had a #3 hit on their hands.
Orlando left his job and hastily assembled a group made up of session singers Telma Hopkins (one of the girls on "Theme from Shaft") and Joyce Vincent. Together, they recorded the blatantly commercial "Knock Three Times" and enjoyed a #1 hit. A few critics attempted to suspend their doubts concerning Dawn's artistic credibility, but the sickeningly saccharine sweetness of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree" was more than any serious music lover could bear. By the time they recorded "Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose," discerning listeners were running for cover. Dawn had become so sweet that nine out of ten dentists recommended avoiding their music entirely. In retrospect, these songs make it difficult to admit that "Candida" is actually quite good. Before Orlando started prancing around in tinted glasses and a spangled suit in front of two perpetually smiling women, he was simply a good singer with a real talent for R&B-like phrasing. A singer of well-written pop songs was reduced to an interpreter of bad bubblegum music and ill-chosen cover songs. At his best, though, Orlando had a voice that could be compared with that of Ben E. King. The string arrangement adds to the illusion that "Candida" is what might have resulted if the Drifters had continued their string of hits into the '70s.
- Thomas Ryan, American Hit Radio, Prima Entertainment, 1996.
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