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Meet the Temptations

The Temptations

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Album Review

The Temptations' first LP, released three years into the group's history with Motown, is also a great record, even though it wasn't really an album so much as a collection of their early singles, hooked around their then new hit, "The Way You Do the Things You Do." Those expecting the classic Temptations sound should also be aware that David Ruffin is absent from all of the tracks except "The Way You Do the Things You Do," which was cut just after he joined, replacing Elbridge "Al" Bryant. Thus, the 14 cuts on this CD (12 off the original album plus two bonus tracks) represent the evolution of the act and its sound, as well as a succession of producers — Andre Williams and Mickey Stevenson on "Oh, Mother of Mine" and "Romance Without Finance," the group's earliest 45 pairing, issued on the short-lived Miracle label; Norman Whitfield, for one single; Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson; and finally Robinson. The differences are fascinating — "Oh, Mother of Mine," sung by Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks sharing the lead, has an exuberant doo wop-based sound mixed with a serious soulful quality that would eventually define the group; "Romance Without Finance" is a little less derivative, with a heavier, fuller band sound (especially the guitars), but both tracks are rooted in a fast dance beat, in keeping with the tastes of the times (early 1961), and neither had the hooks to make it distinctive unto itself. Several of the Gordy-produced numbers seem highly derivative of other, more familiar songs by other acts — "Paradise" sounds like the Four Seasons covering Maurice Williams' "Stay," and "Isn't She Pretty" comes off like a rewrite (albeit a very pretty one, no joke intended) of the Isley Brothers' "Respectable." These and other Gordy-written and -produced numbers are attractive enough, but not special as songs or productions, despite some excellent singing. One group composition, "Check Yourself," produced by Gordy, is interesting for its abrupt tempo change, and features a beautifully expressive Paul Williams lead vocal. But the Smokey Robinson cuts are where the group's sound blossoms, their harmonies suddenly soaring elegantly with Williams' voice cutting through the center while an understated but fully integral band sound provides the foundation. Coupled with his songwriting, those numbers and Robinson helped put the Temptations on the charts — and well up on the charts — after three years of failure. The sound on the 1999 reissue of this album is excellent and then some (the Earl Van Dyke Band never sounded better), and the notes, although minimal, give some frame of reference for the album's release. An excellent mid-priced release that will delight fans and casual listeners.

Biography

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...
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Meet the Temptations, The Temptations
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: R&B/Soul, Music, Soul, Motown, Rock
  • Released: Mar 1964

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