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A Little More Time - The Very Best of Chairmen of the Board

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Album Review

There are many Chairmen of the Board compilations, but this generous 36-track double-disc set gets it right. The band's catalog is much deeper than the title track and "You Got Me Dangling on a String," the vocal quartet's — later threesome's — biggest hits and timeless soul classics. The two-CD package covers their 1969-1974 history in chronological order, tacking on some solo performances from lead singers General Johnson and Danny Woods. Despite being one of the first signings to ex-Motown songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland's Invictus label, the trio did not compose most of the Chairmen's early material. That was farmed out to the Ronald Dunbar/Edith Wayne partnership. Frontman General Johnson then picked up the songwriting reins around 1971 — self-penned music was a rarity among soul vocal group acts of that time — and disc two is loaded with his contributions, with 12 out of its 18 tracks written or co-written by Johnson. Not surprisingly, the earliest material is Motown-oriented, but what makes the music noteworthy is the rotation of lead vocalists. The set is notable due to excellent remastering and its ability to dig deeper into the Chairmen's catalog due to its extended length. That's especially apparent in the Sly Stone-penned "Life and Death in G & A, Pts. 1-2," a nifty — if dated — psychedelic soul suite that is usually truncated on other collections. Most impressive, though, is the Chairmen's diversity, restlessly shifting from sweet-and-sour soul to grinding funk, rousing gospel, lovely ballads, pop, swamp rock, and even a convincing Chicago blues romp, "Weary Traveler," played as raw and tough as many established blues bands. Better yet, there aren't many missteps throughout this compilation's two-hour playing time. The orchestration, overblown production, and extended spoken word section of Burt Bacharach's "Only Love Can Break a Heart" seem to aim for Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul territory and teeter near pretension, but otherwise there are few weak moments. The liner notes are adequate yet don't note who sings lead on each track, a major omission. Otherwise, this set is pretty close to perfect, capturing all the highlights and hidden gems from one of soul music's finest vocal acts, and that's saying a lot.


Formed: 1969 in Detroit, MI

Genre: R&B/Soul

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

Best known for the stuttering number three single "Give Me Just a Little More Time," the Chairmen of the Board were one of the smoothest and most popular soul acts to emerge from Detroit in the early '70s. Although their time at the top of the R&B charts was brief -- their first Top Ten arrived in 1970, their last in 1973 -- they recorded a handful of '70s soul classics, all distinguished by the high, trembling vocals of General Norman Johnson, who also wrote the bulk of the group's material. Born...
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