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The Best of the O'Jays: Love Train

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Album Review

O'Jays fans may find the time period contained in this compilation odd. In 1976, the O'Jays were in the middle of their hitmaking period with CBS-distributed Philadelphia International Records (PIR). In 1985, PIR switched distribution to EMI, the catalog for which is owned by Capitol Records, for which The Right Stuff serves as the reissue arm. The group signed directly to EMI in 1985, remaining until 1993. Though they scored 14 R&B chart hits between 1985 and 1993, The Right Stuff must have felt that there were not enough big hits to justify a compilation of that period. So, the label has licensed ten of the 17 tracks here from PIR, dating back to the 1976 number one R&B hit "Message in Our Music." From there on, most of the group's R&B Top 40 hits over the next 15 years are included, among them chart-toppers "Darlin' Darlin' Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love)," "Use ta Be My Girl," "Lovin' You," and "Have You Had Your Love Today," though three of their Top 20 hits are missing. With their gruff vocals contrasted by the creamy production style of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the O'Jays on these (and their earlier '70s recordings) proved a valid successor to the pop-soul style pioneered by Motown in the '60s. Their pop crossover appeal was always fitful, and, in fact, only one song here, the gold-selling "Use ta Be My Girl," made the pop Top Ten. But their work was remarkably consistent and, toward the end of this period, even surprisingly diverse, as when they recorded Bob Dylan's "Emotionally Yours" in a gospel style and took it into the R&B Top Ten in 1991.

Biography

Formed: 1958 in Canton, OH

Genre: R&B/Soul

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

The O'Jays were one of Philadelphia soul's most popular and long-lived outfits, rivaled only by the Spinners as soul's greatest vocal group of the '70s. In their prime, the O'Jays' recordings epitomized the Philly soul sound: smooth, rich harmonies backed by elaborate arrangements, lush strings, and a touch of contemporary funk. They worked extensively with the legendary production/songwriting team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, becoming the flagship artist of the duo's Philadelphia International...
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