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Album Review

Creatively, commercially, and conceptually, Pain was a major step forward for the Ohio Players. This 1971 album was quite a departure from their previous work — in the late-'60s, the Midwesterners' forte had been raw, hard-edged Southern-style soul along the lines of Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, and Wilson Picket. But with Pain, they became a lot more experimental and unveiled an interesting, distinctive brand of funk that incorporated elements of jazz and blues as well as rock. The jazz influence is especially strong on "Never Had a Dream," "Singing in the Morning," and the hit title song, while "The Reds" is a progressive blues number that draws on jazz as well as psychedelic rock. It was with Pain, the Players' first album for Westbound, that they unveiled their goofy Granny character, which the funksters continued to have fun with on their subsequent Westbound releases but discontinued when they moved to Mercury with 1974's Skin Tight. And it was with Pain that they became famous (some would say infamous) for their erotic LP covers. Employing S&M/bondage imagery, Pain's front cover was considered shocking in 1971. Although the Velvet Underground had written songs about S&M, and the British spy thriller The Avengers frequently hinted at kinky sex — Diana Rigg's Emma Peel character often dressed like a dominatrix — S&M and fetishism were very taboo subjects for Middle America in 1971. And not surprisingly, some retailers refused to carry Pain. But the album, although not huge, was a decent seller. With Pain, the Ohio Players' Westbound period was off to an impressive and creative start.

Biography

Formed: 1959 in Dayton, OH

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

With their slinky, horn-powered grooves, impeccable musicianship, and eye-popping album covers, the Ohio Players were among the top funk bands of the mid-'70s. Emerging from the musical hotbed of Dayton in 1959, the group was originally dubbed the Ohio Untouchables, and initially comprised singer/guitarist Robert Ward, bassist Marshall "Rock" Jones, saxophonist/guitarist Clarence "Satch" Satchell, drummer Cornelius Johnson, and trumpeter/trombonist Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks. In late 1961, a relative...
Full bio