Sunday, 2 December 2018

The Temptations - Solid Rock (1972)


  

Released January 1972

This was The Temptations'/Norman Whitfield's fifth "psychedelic soul" album. Eddie Kendricks had gone by now, but the remaining voices are still superb, and the socially conscious vibe is still just as strong. It is a pretty determinedly uncommercial album, to be honest, and often slips under the radar.

TRACK LISTING

1. Take A Look Around
2. Ain't No Sunshine
3. Stop The War
4. What It Is?
5. Smooth Sailing (From Now On)
6. Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)
7. It's Summer
8. The End Of Our Road

"Take A Look Around" is a hard-hitting "message song". "Ain't No Sunshine" is, of course, the Bill Withers song made famous by Michael Jackson. It is done well here, with a slowed-down vocal intro.  It is largely an instrumental groove for the first four of the song's seven minutes. The percussion on it is infectious .

The album was notable for its twelve-minute anti-Vietnam war psychedelic soul workout, "Stop The War" that begins with The Lord's Prayer, a tolling bell and some weird electronic noises. It irritated some no doubt, but it is a masterpiece of psychedelic soul. It is slow, meandering, indulgent maybe, but funky as hell in places. "Does anybody give a damn - about the brothers in Vietnam...?" is repeated endlessly as the wah-wah and frantic percussion builds up into a maelstrom of funky confusion and the vocal arrives after four minutes. It is a titanic track, make no mistake. Utterly uncommercial. It merges into Edwin Starr's "War" half way through. This was strong stuff in 1972. It cannot be underestimated how brave it was to put out this sort of thing.

"What It Is?" was also covered by Norman Whitfield's other project, The Undisputed Truth. Their version is slower and funkier, actually. The Temptations' one is buried in lots of fuzz guitar and less rhythm and different lyrics. "Smooth Sailing (From Now On)" is a break in the fervency of the message, giving us a poppy mid-sixties-style Motown number. "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)" was also covered by the Undisputed Truth. The Temptations released it as a single. It was pretty upbeat and poppy too. "It's Summer" is a remake of a track they did two years earlier on the "Psychedelic Shack" album. This is possibly the better version. Lovely vocal harmonies on it.

"The End Of Our Road" is a funky, muscular and lively number to end what was a bit of a schizophrenic album containing two tracks that appeared on The Undisputed Truth's album released in the same month and a remake of a track from two years earlier, and, of course the lengthy anti-war number. One got the feeling that they, and Whitfield, were now treading water somewhat. Maybe they had one last great album in them? We would soon find out.


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