Monday, 14 October 2019

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - Black And Blue (1973)

I'll tell you what, I'll make you a bet....


Released in September 1973

Running time 39.31

This was Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' second album and it found Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff starting to build their Philadelphia Sound - orchestrated, lush soul ballads and uptempo, early disco groovers. This album featured a mix of the two and is quite a serious album, not just a vehicle for the group's two hit singles that were included. It showed that soul music was not all about chart pop, particularly on the three long offerings on the old side two. Billy Paul and The O'Jays showed that too, but often with a social message. The Blue Notes were pure romantic soul. Love is the theme throughout.


1. Cabaret
2. The Love I Lost
3. It All Depends On You
4. Concentrate On Me
5. Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back)
6. Is There A Place For Me
7. I'm Weak For You
8. I'm Comin' Home Tomorrow                            

The album starts off in completely incongruous style with a pointless and short clover of Cabaret, done in a cheesy, stagey over the top fashion. It sits completely at odds with the soul perfection of the rest of the album. However, a more regular Blue Notes sound arrives soon enough in the fine strains of the hit sngle The Love I Lost, with its catchy hooks and excellent vocals. It is included here as an extended version, which is most enjoyable. Teddy Pendergrass's growling, magnificent vocals are such a memory of the mid seventies for me.

It All Depends On You is a big, slow, dignified soul ballad. The lead vocal is gruffly soulful. Once again it is an extended version. Concentrate On Me continues in the same harmonious, slow vein featuring another killer vocal and some great bass and brass. Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back) was the album's other hit single and is a fine one too, full of singalong refrains and infectious percussion backing.

Is There A Place For Me is an upbeat soul song, with a deliciously deep bass underpinning it and some big fatback drums powering it along. The punchy brass/sweeping strings interplay is superb, as is the remastered sound quality, which is most impressive throughout the album. This is a really good track. Its six minutes plus is a masterpiece of soul instrumentation and vocals working in tandem. Check out that buzzy Ronald Isley-style guitar at the end too. Great stuff.

I'm Weak For You is a sumptuous, bassy, slow slice of smooth soul. Perfectly executed. The third in the three long cuts in a row is the passionate, uplifting grand sound of I'm Comin' Home Tomorrow. It features wonderful vocals, strings and bass. Indeed, five of the album's eight tracks were over four minutes in length, four of those over six minutes. This was soul music at its most expansive, showing that a lengthy soul cut could be a love song as well as a "conscious" one. Apart from the early aberration, this was probably the group's finest album.


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