Category: The Temptations

The Temptations – Psychedelic Soul

ARTIST: The Temptations psychedelic soul

TITLE: Psychedelic Soul

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Cloud Nine (#6 US, #2 R&B), Runaway Child, Running Wild (#6 US, #1 R&B), Don’t Let the Jones Get You Down (#20 US, #2 R&B), I Can’t Get Next to You (#1 US, #1 R&B, #13 UK), Psychedelic Shack (#7 US, #2 R&B, #33 UK), Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today) (#3 US, #2 R&B, #7 UK), Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite the World) (#33 US, #8 R&B), Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) (#1 US, #1 R&B, #8 UK), Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Ar) (#18 US, #8 R&B, #32 UK), Papa Was a Rolling Stone (#1 US, #5 R&B, #14 UK), Masterpiece (#7 US, #1 R&B), Plastic Man (#40 US, #8 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They did versions of War, Friendship Train and Smiling Faces Sometimes

LINEUP: Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendrick and David Edwards were the ‘classic five’. Richard Street replaced Paul Williams in 1970.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Norman Whitfield era of the Temptations features multi-lead vocals, and funky, funky grooves from the Funk Brothers, who were allowed to jam on the album cuts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The music world was changing, while the Motown Sound was stagnant. The Temptations were one of the first Motown acts to ‘modernize’, as they chose producer Norman Whitfield, who along with Barrett Strong wrote some great socially conscious songs, and Whitfield used the Funk Brothers to jam like crazy as well.

This collection grabs the album cuts, which can range up to over 12 minutes long (that’s one way to fill out an album side!), and while it is jamming it’s the Funk Brothers, so it’s not pointless noodling. They also did a few tracks made famous by other Motown artists to put the Psychedelic Soul spin on them. (“Friendship Train” just cooks.)

This era of the Temptations did have a few ballads (“Just My Imagination”) but most of it was funky, funky music. Those tracks allowed each of the Temps to shine as soloists in songs, and gave them a unique sound in soul and funk.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Temps revolted a bit in 1973 due to the long, long tracks that Whitfield kept recording. He was let go, and starting in 1974 they went back to shorter tracks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE A+ Even with the long tracks, there’s no filler. Can you dig it?

The Temptations – Gold

ARTIST: The Temptations R-980461-1422001297-1914.jpeg

TITLE: Gold (Originally Released as My Girl: The Very Best of the Temptations)

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #167

SINGLES: Top 10 Pop: My Girl (#1 US, #1 R&B, #43 UK), Beauty Is Only Skin Deep (#3 US, #1 R&B, #18 UK), (I Know) I’m Losing You (#8 US, #1 R&B, #19 UK), All I Need (#8 US, #2 R&B), You’re My Everything (#6 US, #3 R&B). I Wish It Would Rain (#4 US, #1 R&B, #45 UK), Cloud Nine (#6 US, #2 R&B), I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (#2 US, #2 R&B, #3 UK), Runaway Child, Running Wild (#6 US, #1 R&B), I Can’t Get Next to You (#1 US, #1 R&B, #13 UK), Psychedelic Shack (#7 US, #2 R&B, #33 UK), Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today) (#3 US, #2 R&B, #7 UK), Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) (#1 US, #1 R&B, #8 UK), Papa Was a Rolling Stone (#1 US, #5 R&B, #14 UK), Masterpiece (#7 US, #1 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Way You Do The Things You Do, Get Ready, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg

LINEUP: Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendrick and David Ruffin were the ‘classic five’. Al Bryant was in the group very early on. Dennis Edwards replaced Ruffin. Richard Street replaced Paul Williams. Damon Harris replaced Kendrick. Others filtered in and out. Otis Williams is the only consistent member.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The commercial gold standard of Motown vocal groups rolled with changes in producers and styles (sometimes not too quietly) and dominated charts for over a decade.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s not the songs you know and hear all of the time. It’s tracks like “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep”, “Get Ready”, “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are”), and “Shakey Ground” that makes the Temptations one of the most popular vocal groups of all time.

Going from a typical Motown sound towards the “Psychedelic Soul” era without a hitch (except internally) showed their versatility. They took the losses of personnel without much of an issue. The backing of the Motown session musicians also was top notch, and the songs were memorable. You know this, no doubt, but the deeper cuts are where you realize that behind the Miracles, the Temptations ruled the Motown era (no dis to the Four Tops…or anyone else).

This collection storms through the big singles from 1962 through their last Motown hits in the 90’s, including a memorable side with Rick James. But their last singles aren’t as memorable, as the 90’s production doesn’t suit them. That’s the only blip here.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There’s another Temptations compilation that has the long (and I mean long) cuts from their Psychedelic Soul era, and I’m going to review that one too.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There’s been larger comps, but this pretty much hits everything.

GRADE A: A few of the later cuts are disposable, but most of this stuff is essential.

The Temptations – Cloud Nine

ARTIST: The Temptations                   220px-1969-tempts-cloud9

TITLE:  Cloud Nine

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #1 R&B, #32 UK

SINGLES: Cloud Nine (#6 US, #2 R&B, #15 UK), Runaway Child, Running Wild (#6 US, #1 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Heard It Through the Grapevine

LINEUP: Dennis Edwards, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams. Norman Whitfield produced and used Motown’s best funk players.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Psychedelic soul is born as a reaction to Sly & the Family Stone’s successful mix of genres.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The leader of the group, Otis Williams, thought Sly Stone had something with funky production and multiple lead singers, so he pitched the idea to Norman Whitfield that they should try something like that. Whitfield demurred at first, but when they did “Cloud Nine” in that style, a new Motown genre was born.

Utilizing the lead vocal strengths of Dennis Edwards, Eddie Kendricks’ falsetto, and Melvin Franklin’s deep and powerful bass, the Temptations had the vocal chops to pull it off. Whitfield’s production and musicians definitely incorporated the funk and the fuzz, distortion and swirls of psychedelic music. The result was some brilliant work, with some cuts being long workouts (the LP version of “Runaway Child, Running Wild” is over 9 ½ minutes long).

The second side seems more traditional. The songs are nice, but the arrangements aren’t as exciting. Still side one is pretty revolutionary for Motown.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Eight of the ten tracks were from the pens of Barrett Strong and Whitfield as writing partners.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: Had Side Two not been as ‘traditional’, it would have definitely been a higher grade.

The Temptations – The Temptations Anthology

ARTIST: The Temptations 220px-Temptations_anthology_cover
TITLE: The Temptations Anthology
YEAR RELEASED: Compilation
CHART ACTION: #65 US, #5 US R&B (That was the first vinyl version released in 1973. They upgraded it twice since then…)
SINGLES: Top 10 US: My Girl (#1 US, #1 US R&B, #43 UK), Beauty Is Only Skin Deep (#3 US, #1 US R&B, #18 UK), (I Know) I’m Losing You (#8 US, #1 US R&B, #19 UK), All I Need (#8 US, #2 US R&B), You’re My Everything (#6 US, #3 US R&B, #26 UK), I Wish It Would Rain (#4 US, #1 US R&B, #45 UK), Cloud Nine (#6 US, #2 US R&B, #15 UK), I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (#2 US, #2 US R&B, #3 UK), Runaway Child, Running Wild (#6 US, #1 US R&B), I Can’t Get Next to You (#1 US, #1 US R&B, #13 UK), Psychedelic Shack (#7 US, #2 US R&B, #33 UK), Ball of Confusion (#3 US, #2 US R&B, #7 UK), Just My Imagination (#1 US, #1 US R&B, #8 UK), Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone (#1 US, #5 US R&B, #14 UK), Masterpiece (#7 US, #1 US R&B)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Believe it or not, these didn’t hit the Top 10: The Way You Do The Things You Do (#11 US, #1 US R&B), Ain’t Too Proud to Beg (#13 US, #1 US R&B, #21 UK), Get Ready (#29 US, #1 US R&B, #10 UK)
LINEUP: David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin. Dennis Edwards replaced Ruffin in 1968. Richard Street replaced Paul Williams in 1971. Damon Harris replaced Kendricks in 1971. The Funk Brothers did most of the session work.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The most famous male Motown vocal groups collection of hit singles going all the way to 1996, but most all were done before 1976.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Look at all the hits this group produced. First, for Smokey Robinson, then for Norman Whitfield. The Temptations were a gold mine for Motown records, almost as much as the Supremes were. This anthology collects almost all of the relevant A sides, some B sides and some album cuts from their classic era and a little beyond.

It does miss their embryonic singles, as only one of the first seven charted on the R&B chart and another charted at #122. But that’s not why you listen to the Temptations.

Hearing the early to middle cuts all in a row, you get a sense of how cookie-cutter and alike many of the songs are, especially until David Ruffin starts getting some leads. That was Motown until the late 60’s though. Get the good material out there as a single and don’t screw with the formula. They didn’t.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I am going to review the albums in the “Psychedelic Soul” era as I think Norman Whitfield may have produced some interesting gems there.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: This is plenty for casual fans!

GRADE: A: What’s interesting to do for the songs you know by heart is to listen to the backing tracks closely to hear the magic of the Funk Brothers.