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The Joneses

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Album Review

Although the Joneses were from Pittsburgh, on the other side of Pennsylvania, they certainly sounded like an exponent of the 1970s Philadelphia soul sound on their self-titled second album in 1977. Uncoincidentally, it was produced by guitarist Bobby Eli, a founding member of MFSB and a session musician on records by top Philly soul acts like the O'Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the Three Degrees, and Billy Paul. But while The Joneses had many of the essential trappings of 1970s Philadelphia soul, it failed to match the success of the acts with whom Eli had been associated, or even the modest success of their 1974 debut, Keepin' Up with the Joneses, which had spawned a couple of R&B hits in "Hey Babe" and "Sugar Pie Guy." This wasn't solely due to the album sounding a tad behind the times as disco and dance-oriented R&B superseded more song-oriented soul material. As cheap a shot as it might seem to call an act named the Joneses rather anonymous, they didn't have as much character as the best '70s soul vocal groups, though their interplay (as the liner notes to the 2011 U.K. CD reissue acknowledge) had elements in common with the Temptations. With Eli co-writing most of the songs, the end product was a very average and typical mid-'70s Philadelphia-style soul record, with swimming strings and lushly layered vocals. Upbeat love songs were the usual fare, with a couple ballads to break up the pace, "Merry Go Round" spotlighting Temptations-like handoffs of lead vocals. They ventured into tunes of mildly greater interest on "Universal Love," one of the let's-all-get-along urges that was a Philly soul staple, and "Rat Race," which went into the funky socially conscious path also followed by the occasional Philadelphia soul record.

The Joneses, The Joneses
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