Monday, 19 August 2019

The Undisputed Truth - Law Of The Land (1973)

Live by the good book if you're able....

  

Released in 1973

Running time 42.11

Norman Whitfield first tried out his psychedelic soul numbers on The Undisputed Truth before finding chart success with them via the Temptations. Quite a few of them appear on this album, and many of the other tracks are covers of other artists' songs given the distinctive Undisputed Truth male/female gospel-influenced vocal treatment, over a solid, infectious, often funky backing. This was The Undisputed Truth's third album, and the last recorded with their original line-up. Original members Billie Rae Calvin and Brenda Joyce Evans left after this one had been released. On this one, though, they join once more with fellow vocalist Joe Harris and are backed by several highly competent Motown musicians.

The album differs from the previous two (especially the second one) in the comparative brevity of the tracks. There are no lengthy, big production workouts on this offering. Most of the tracks could conceivably have been released as pretty good soul singles.

TRACK LISTING

1. Law Of The Land
2. Papa Was A Rolling Stone
3. Girl You're Alright
4. Killing Me Softly With His Song
5. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)
6. This Child Needs Its Father
7. Mama I Gotta Brand New Thing (Don't Say No)
8. Feelin' Alright
9. Love And Happiness
10. With A Little Help From My Friends
11. If I Die
12. Walk On By
13. Gonna Keep On Tryin' 'Till I Win Your Love              

Law Of The Land doesn't quite match The Temptations' peerless, uplifting version, but this one is good too, with some impressive gospelly vocals and brass sections. It is funkier than The Temptations' one too, with some space-funk sound effects. Up next is another original version of a Temptations classic - the iconic Papa Was A Rolling Stone. This one is definitely the inferior version, lacking that wonderful extended bass intro that so characterised The Temptations' version. Mind you, if this was the only version you had ever heard, its concise, deep, harmonious, soulful vibe would certainly impress.

Girl You're Alright is a deep but sweetly soulful ballad that just sounds so typical of early seventies soul. Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softy With His Song is covered pretty authentically, full of slow, sensual soul.


The Temptations' big hit, Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) suffers from a not-too convincing female vocal in this case. It is too high in pitch for me. Maybe I am just too used to The Temptations' version. Again, standing alone, it is still a good soul offering.

This Child Needs Its Father had been recorded by Gladys Knight & The Pips and is a slow, sombre warning backed by some dark string/brass orchestration. Mama I Gotta Brand New Thing is one of the album's best tracks - a cookin' piece of upbeat, brassy seventies, urban soul with some seriously good vocal interplay between the three vocalists.

Traffic's Feelin' Alright is slowed down and given an appealing gospel makeover. Love And Happiness was an Al Green song. It still has Green's distinctive, seductive Memphis sound.

So many sixties and seventies soul albums had a Beatles cover. Here we get With A Little Help From My Friends, which has always lent itself to a soul interpretation. If I Die is a Marvin Gaye-style yearning, meaningful number, with a thumping bass and brass backing. Isaac Hayes/Dionne Warwick's Walk On By is covered in regulation soul fashion.

Gonna Keep On Tryin' Till I Win Your Love is a Temptations cover with a vocal that sounds very like David Ruffin.

I will always enjoy anything by The Undisputed Truth, but they did have a problem with creating an identity for themselves, possibly because most of the material was either a cover version or a song that The Temptations did better with. It was a shame because their vocals and the backing used were uniformly excellent.

B-

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