Friday, 19 July 2019

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - To Be True (1975)

Somewhere down the line....


Released in 1975

Running time 39.04

This was actually Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' third album of harmonious, sometimes funky smooth soul. Vocals were shared between Teddy Pendergrass, Melvin himself and female singer Sharon Paige. Along with The O 'Jays, Billy Paul and The Three Degrees, they were the pride of the Philadelphia International label.


1. Where Are All My Friends
2. To Be True
3. Pretty Flower
4. Hope That We Can Be Together Soon
5. Nobody Could Take Your Place
6. Somewhere Down The Line
7. Bad Luck
8. It's All Because Of A Woman                              

Where Are All My Friends is introduced by some typically seventies Philly brass and percussion before Pendergrass's deep, dominating voice arrives. This is a classic slice of seventies soul. To Be True is also representative of its era and genre, this time due to its smoochy, late-night "come to bed honey" soul vibe. Its soulful, slow pace is backed by a solid, deep bass and a punchy brass interjection on the refrain. It also has the archetypal spoken part near the end, Barry White style. Pretty Flower is also a ballad, but this time with a bassier, more percussive backing as compared to the sweet orchestration of the previous track.

Hope That We Can Be Together Soon has Sharon Paige on vocals on another romantic, slow number. Nobody Could Take Your Place is a livelier song with some infectious, crystal clear cymbal work and funky wah-wah guitar backing. The harmonies on the catchy chorus are excellent and this is a great example of Philly soul of the time. The O' Jays and Billy Paul both produced similar stuff, although Harold and his mates were the ones who specialised in the more groove-driven dance-y numbers. This track also features some impressive saxophone near the end.

Somewhere Down The Line is sweetly appetising, harmonious soul. Again, the percussion/brass interplay is intoxicating. Pendergrass's vocal on here is soaring. Wonderful. Then, of course, there is the magnificent, funky strains of Bad Luck, with its addictive cymbals riding over Pendergrass's gruff but evocative vocal. Just check out that funky riff. Actually, the track is head and shoulders above anything else on the album. Truly great stuff. It's All Because Of A Woman has a stop-start rhythm to it at the beginning that surely influenced David Bowie around the same time during his soul period, and Prince too, much later on. The bass/drum bits are superb. Vocally, Bowie modelled his soul voice on Melvin I am sure. I am reminded a lot of It's Gonna Be Me.

Overall, this was a sumptuous piece of seventies soul, but, as I said, Bad Luck is by far the best cut on it. Standing out by a mile.