Monday, 10 December 2018
The Temptations - Masterpiece (1973)
Released February 1973
This was the final of The Temptations/Norman Whitfield's seven "psychedelic soul" albums, dating back to 1969, and so good they had all been too. On this one, Whitfield let us creative juices run wild. There are only six tracks on the album, including the magnificent title track, running at fourteen minutes of heavily orchestrated, hugely atmospheric, immaculately played funky, conscious soul. It is a magnificent piece of work.
1. Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)
4. The Law Of The Land
5. Plastic Man
6. Hurry Tomorrow
"Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)" opens the album with a sweet piece of melodic soul, before we get the majesty of "Masterpiece". It is crammed full of brooding funk, cynical, socially aware lyrics and huge, sweeping orchestral runs. The whole thing, indeed the album, comes over as a sort of Whitfield solo, instrumental album, with The Temptations enhancing it with occasional vocals. The bass and percussion are sumptuous on this track, as they are throughout the album, it has to be said. Instrumentally, it certainly is a masterpiece. There wasn't really anywhere else the group could go after this, other than "back to basics". This was a high point in soul creativity, up there with any of the great rock or prog rock creations from the same period.
The second side of the original album began with "Ma", a track that started with some foreboding Native American style drums and a menacing atmosphere and vocal telling of "Ma'" and her backwoods Mississippi life. The riff is decidedly similar to that of Argent's "Hold Your Head Up". It is a great song, though, packed with feeling and soulful evocative parts. "The Law Of The Land" is the last truly great Temptations classic. It is a superb, uplifting, upbeat, pounding slab of soul magnificence. I love it and never tire of its infectious, pulsating rhythms. From its first few seconds, it kicks posterior. When the drums kick in - wow. One of my favourite tracks of all time, from anyone. Just perfect.
"Plastic Man" takes issue with hypocrisy and falseness. Once more, the musicianship and pounding, muscular funk are irresistible. Check out those horns too. "Hurry Tomorrow" is a final "message song" about the ills of the contemporary world. It is an eight-minute "mini classic", again very atmospheric, slow burning, and immaculately sung.
This, for me, along with "Cloud Nine", "Puzzle People" and "Psychedelic Shack" was among the best of The Temptations' psychedelic soul albums. Well worth a listen.
- December 10, 2018