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In Japan (Live)

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Album Review

Prior to being reissued in a limited-edition run of 5,000 copies by Hip-O Select, the Temptations' In Japan (1973) was only available as an import title. The performance was recorded while the vocal quintet were touring in support of their Masterpiece (1972) long-player. The lineup included Dennis Edwards, Richard Street, Damon Harris, Melvin Franklin and Otis Williams. Collectively, they resuscitated the combo in the wake of both Eddie Kendricks' and Paul Williams' departures. The updated incarnation made a significant name for themselves with the chart-topper "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." Despite the Temptations' sizable classic-'60s soul catalog, they draw heavily from Masterpiece, playing half of the album as well as a healthy sampling from their previous effort All Directions (1972) — most notably a nearly eight-minute reading of the aforementioned "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone"." Not surprisingly, the strongest sides are the newer selections. The set kicks off with an edgy and funky rendition of "Plastic Man" from Masterpiece, which is likewise the source for the slow jam ballad "Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)." The Temptations' reworking of "The First Time (Every I Saw Your Face)" is another outstanding and affective love song, highlighting their impeccable harmonies. Predictably, they dip into their vintage repertoire for an up-tempo and rousing "I Can't Get Next to You," and an arguably rote medley featuring "Get Ready," "My Girl" and "The Way You Do the Things You Do." Conversely, the sweet and sincere "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" and the suitably climactic "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" conclude the show, underscored by the tight Motown horn section as they wail on what is nothing short of a definitive version of the latter. Longtime enthusiasts will want to add In Japan to their library, especially as it is the sole concert platter with this early-'70s personnel.


Formed: 1960 in Detroit, MI

Genre: R&B/Soul

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

Thanks to their fine-tuned choreography -- and even finer harmonies -- the Temptations became the definitive male vocal group of the 1960s; one of Motown's most elastic acts, they tackled both lush pop and politically charged funk with equal flair, and weathered a steady stream of changes in personnel and consumer tastes with rare dignity and grace. The Temptations' initial five-man lineup formed in Detroit in 1961 as a merger of two local vocal groups, the Primes and the Distants. Baritone Otis...
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