The Detroit emeralds - You Want It You Got It (1972)
The early seventies, three-man vocal group The Detroit Emeralds always seemed to be in the shadow of The Detroit Spinners, which was not surprising as the latter had lots of hits and this group had just the two. So - this 1972 album was the only one that seemed to do the rounds of the record shops - love the Blaxploitation-style cover too. The group were characterised by their excellent shared vocals and brassy grooving, soulful sound enhanced by some great bass lines. There is a bit of an urban grittiness to this album that I find draws me to it.
You Want It You Got It is incredibly catchy and overflowing with kick-ass brass breaks, fatback drums and great multi-vocals. It was a hit in the UK, reaching number 12 in 1971. I don’t remember it from the time, though. The beautifully bassy There's A Love For Me Somewhere and I'll Never Sail The Sea Again are both quality soul ballads, the latter being the slower and slightly less brassy of the two. It still carries some fine, subtle brass itself, however.
Take My Love is a sublime slowie featuring some sumptuous saxophone and another rumbling bass line. It is a song with a really attractive, deeply soulful sound to it. I like it a lot. Then, of course, there is the wonderful single and their biggest hit Feel The Need In Me. I remember absolutely loving the upbeat, soulful strains of the song back in 1972-73 and the passing of time hasn't affected that at all. I played it endlessly on my little portable tape recorder back then and I still love it to bits. Check out that pounding beat, sweet strings and intuitively soulful vocal. The track cooks to boiling point from the very first note - sweeter to me than cherry pie indeed. It was one of the first records to really get me into soul as a genre.
I've Got To Move suffers a bit from a strangely muffled production but it finds the group getting all funky in convincingly fashion with the obligatory wah-wah guitars to the fore - this is a great funky little rarity. Slightly less funky but still bubbling nicely is the brassy, insistent, seductive bedroom groove of Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms). A similar horn-powered oomph can be found on the down 'n' dirty soul of I Bet You Get The One You Love. This appealing album ends with a soulful ballad in Till You Decide To Come Home. This is another in a long, long list of little-known but really high quality seventies soul offerings. Even seemingly average stuff was good back then, wasn’t it?
The Detroit Spinners were, along with Chairmen Of The Board, one of the great “forgotten” (comparatively) soul groups of the seventies. I know that as The Spinners, the group had some marvellous recordings issued in the late sixties-early seventies on the Motown label, notably the wonderful I'll Be Around and It's A Shame, both of which are included on this compilation, but it is the songs released in the early/mid seventies on the Atlantic label that forms the bulk of this excellent collection. Singer G.C Cameron had left (remaining under contract at Motown) and the group, advised to sign for Atlantic by Aretha Franklin, no less, became Philippe Wynne, Henry Farnborough and Bobby Smith. Their harmonies were truly superb and yielded some excellent, soulful tracks, many of which were big hits.
Then there is the inexplicable non-hit later made famous by Elton John in Are You Ready For Love and the two huge “last hurrah” hits of the late seventies-early eighties in Working My Way Back To You and Cupid-I've Loved You For A Long Time. These were big commercial hits and, although most enjoyable and singalong, they weren’t quite the genuine soul that the previous recordings had been. They were just a little bit sanitised. That raw soul feeling had gone, unfortunately. Those mid seventies recordings were the best it ever got for the group, but they were some true high points.
The Delfonics were a three-piece Philadelphia soul vocal group whose main success was in those classic years for smooth, string-driven, highly-orchestrated soul of the late sixties-early seventies. Their style was a forerunner of The Chi-Lites and The Jackson 5's more soulful numbers. The recognisable, distinctive falsetto vocals were provided by William "Poogie" Hart. They were one of the first of many similar soul groups, paving the way for so many others through the seventies.
Two hits were the low-key but sumptuously melodic, string-enhanced I'm Sorry and their first big one, La La Means I Love You. The latter laid the foundations for lots of seventies soul numbers, with its lush production, soulful drums and soaring, unique vocals. Listen To My Heart is similarly slick while the group's other big hit, the much-covered Ready Or Not (Here I Come) is simply superb - another fine mix of killer vocals, strings and horns. She Said Don't Love Me is a later recording from the mid seventies, with a laid-back, soulful Philly-style backing, while Trying To Make A Fool Of Me returns to classic ballad fare. You Got Yours And I'll Get Mine is a big, orchestrated re-make of the two big hits.
The Delfonics produced a few classic cuts, but, for me, despite their status as trail-blazers, have always remained second division in terms of consistent, quality output. Many subsequent groups were consistently better - The Chi-Lites, The Detroit Spinners, The Stylistics, Chairmen Of The Board, The O' Jays and Tavares to name just a few.
Incidentally, the quality remasterings of The Delfonics' output can be found on The Essential Delfonics album, which, at forty songs, is far too long for my Delfonics needs, but as I said, the sound is good. There are some hidden gems on it too, like the Northern Soul-ish Can't Get Over Losing You the sweet soul of You Are Gone and the lively, catchy soul of Hurt So Bad.
The one everyone nows is the simply beautiful, sad and soulful Have You Seen Her, with its instantly recognisable opening guitar riff and moving lyrics of a heartbroken, lonely man. Another big hit was the catchy and singalong Homely Girl. Oh Girl was a stark, quite bleak, lover's lament for his his lost love, sung against a slow backing and a plaintive harmonica. Beautiful orchestration and a killer, heart-rending vocal delivery. Too Good To Be Forgotten lifts the heartbreak with a lively, high voice vocal and clavinet backing tribute to one hell of a girl. The lively commercial funk and more clavinet of I Found Sunshine ploughs the same "happy lover" furrow as does the simply beautiful vocal of Stoned Out Of My Mind. These are soul singles of the highest quality. A little bit of misery is never far away when listening to The Chi-Lites, though, and The Coldest Days Of My Life provides it with another yearning lament. What a great vocal. Nobody did this strings orchestration and soulful vocal better than The Chi-Lites.
This is one of the group's best albums. The Chi-Lites were not renowned for albums and some of them are extremely difficult to get hold of. This one, though, is a really good one.
Homely Girl was a huge hit single and is a lovely serving of sensitive soul, augmented by a totally catchy melody and trademark vocal harmonies. Go Away Dream is a beautifully syncopated piece of rhythmic harmonious soul. There is a wonderful falsetto vocal on the big hit Too Good To Be Forgotten and the also commercially successful, clavinet-dominated funky groover I Found Sunshine.
The heartbreaking, divorce-themed tearjerkerI Never Had It So Good (But Felt So Bad) is followed by an equally maudlin number on the same theme in Marriage Licence. "I wish that a marriage licence is like a driver's licence, that expires every two years..." has to be one of the most unusual love song lyrics. The sad subject of both of these songs is exacerbated by the simply superb shared vocals. The backing on the latter is also excellent. The Chi-Lites used top quality musicians. The lively and funky I Forgot To Say I Love You Till I'm Gone explores the now familiar relationship break-down theme, this time against a jaunty, brassy backing that somewhat hides the sad lyrics. One Man Band (Plays All Alone) also concerns a man left on his own, this time sung against a rhythmic backing.
Bet You'll Never Be Sorry is a breezy and fast tempo number and this perfectly-executed seventies soul album album ends with the sublimely beautiful big hit, Stoned Out Of My Mind, with its superb lead vocal and captivating shuffling beat.
The early-mid seventies were, as pointed out in other reviews, absolute heaven for lovers of classic soul. Harmonious, sweet soulful male vocal groups were all over the place. The Stylistics were another in a long list, and they too had a similar long list of hit after hit. They were always just a little too saccharine for my liking, therefore I was not able to declare them as one of my absolute favourites, lacking the heartbreaking soul of Chairmen Of The Board, Detroit Spinners and The Chi-lites or the funky social consciousness of The O'Jays or The Temptations. Nevertheless the instantly recognisable falsetto vocal of Russell Thompkins Jr. left a legacy of some pretty unforgettable soul singles. Fans of The Stylistics may also be interested in checking out the remarkably similar 70s Philadelphia group, Blue Magic.
Sing Baby Sing is a joyous celebration, while the often-forgotten 7000 Dollars And You fits into the lively, vibrant, brass-driven category. The moving soul is back with the lovely Betcha By Golly Wow and the plaintive, soulful classic that is Star On A TV Show. Sixteen Bars is an upbeat number and the group even get a bit funky for once with Funky Weekend. Their orchestrated, brassy cover of Can't Help Falling In Love is also impossible not to sing along to. One of my favourites, however, has always been the somewhat quirky Rock 'n' Roll Baby with its amusing lyrics - “he could hardly walk but he sure knew how to sing the blues…” about a two year-old singer belting out the blues in his “little orthopaedic shoes”. Silly, but I have always liked it. Overall, a pretty good collection. Hit after hit.
How could I have lasted from 1974 to 2018 without knowing too much about Blue Magic, other than that they appeared in my Atlantic Soul box set with their original of Barry Biggs's reggae hit from 1976, Sideshow. Much as I liked Biggs's version, Blue Magic's soulful original puts old Bazza in the shade.
Although Just Don't Want To Be Lonely is the standout track (just how the hell wasn't it a hit?), and Sideshow a close second, all the album is quality. Spell, the poppy but goes funky at the end Look Me Up, the sweet soul of What's Come Over Me and Tear It Down are other highlights. Also the upbeat pre-disco disco groove of Welcome To The Club. Stop To Start is incredibly like The Stylistics, it has to be said. If you like Stylistics-Chi-Lites-Delfonics style 70s soul, then you cannot go wrong with this relatively unknown gem.
It was 1976 that really broke the group big, however, with the mighty Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel which not only had a great disco rhythm (particularly in its extended version) but a fantastic vocal and killer chorus. It has a wonderful intro too.
It kicks off with the energetic and infectious Mighty Power Of Love, which provides a great start to the album. It is full of verve, vitality and vigour. It's bloody brilliant. End of. Ridin' High is a melodic, extremely pleasant bit of lively and bassy sweet soul. To The Other Man is one of those moving slow soulful tales about growing up in poverty but with strong mama, a proud sense of morality and learning "give respect to the other man". Nice song. It segues into the truly wonderful disco groove of Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel of which no further comment is needed. As on the Best Of compilation, it is the extended version that is included, which is fine by me. I love it. Six and a half minutes of one of the best disco records of all time.
Bein' With You is a marvellously upbeat piece of poppy, brassy soul highlighting the group's harmonious skill and sheer joie de vivre. Wonderful is a smoochy ballad enhanced by some sumptuous saxophone. The sweet soul continues on the equally lovely Guiding Star. This song is one of those that girls loved back in the seventies, so to get in with them you had to like it too. As it happened, being an old (or young) romantic, I did anyway. Check out those falsetto vocals at the song's play out - fantastic. This tracks just lifts me up, sky high. By the end of it I'm shrieking out my awful vocals at full volume. Back to the dance floor for another real glitter ball classic - the thoroughly infectious Don't Take Away The Music. Seventies soul albums are what they are - half an hour or so of incredibly pleasing fare. Nothing earth-shattering but containing stuff that will take you to soul heaven.
Amazingly, this was the seventh album from five-piece seventies soul vocal group The Manhattans. It was released on the back of their biggest hit, the infidelity-themed heartbreaker, Kiss And Say Goodbye and is largely comprised of lushly orchestrated smooth, slickly produced and beautifully harmonised ballads, with a couple of disco soul numbers in there too. The overall ambience, however, is a laid-back one. Although released on the CBS label, it is a very Philly-sounding offering.
How Can Anything So Good Be So Bad For You ups the tempo on a delicious serving of Detroit Spinners soul fare. Check out those superb harmonies. Hurt has a spoken intro and takes the pace down low once more. Those deep, spoken bits are provided by Winfred "Blue" Lovett in true gruff but seductive Barry White fashion. The track was a follow up to Kiss And Say Goodbye and really should have come after that track in the album's running order. Lovett takes some of the lead vocals on the sumptuous soul of Wonderful World Of Love and If You're Ever Gonna Love Me, another ballad, features the higher vocals of Gerald Alston. La La La Wish Upon A Star is very Delfonics-influenced, from the first note. Classic soft seventies soul but a bit more 1972-72 than 1976.
The Originals were an interesting Motown group. I have no access to any albums to review here, just a succession of singles, so I have covered those that I own, sourced mainly from The Complete Motown Singles Box Sets. I have listed them pretty much chronologically. I have also covered one of their disco albums. They were a vocal group that appeared un-credited on some of the label's biggest hits - try Jimmy Ruffin's What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted, Stevie Wonder's For Once In My Life and Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday, David Ruffin's My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me), Marvin Gaye's Chained and Edwin Starr's War and 25 Miles for starters. Their members had done the rounds too, before forming the group, singing in groups like The (Detroit) Spinners and contributing to writing songs like Please Mr. Postman.
They released lots of singles between 1969 and 1972 in their own right and then diversified into disco by the mid-seventies. Their over-riding sound is that of slow, immaculately sung, multi-harmony ballads. That smoothness, easy listening vibe and comparative lack of either funk, poppiness or vitality means that, for me, there were many other Motown acts that I favoured above them. Quite a few in fact. They were good at what they did, though, there was no doubt about that.
The Stylistics, The Chi-Lites, The Detroit Spinners and The Delfonics in their particular field of soul, however. The four members from these classic years all passed away early, in their forties or fifties, three of whom from heart attacks, which was quite tragic.
The group discover their funk in the James Brown-esque groove of Get Up And Get Down. The falsetto vocal is excellent as is the lip-smacking funky guitar lick that is present throughout the song.
Fall In Love, Lady Love continues in the same sweet soul vein. There is nothing ground-breaking in tracks like this, but there is nothing unpleasant either. I Fell For You ploughs the same furrow and features some impressive vocal gymnastics - high and low taking their turns. The collection ends with a brassy, bassy Temptations-Undisputed Truth soulful funker in Gimme Some (Good Soul Music). It is a fine upbeat note upon which to end an appealing group of songs from a classic period for soul music.
Who exactly were The Topics? Let's try and find out. This is a soul album from 1976 that I am struggling to find anything about, anywhere. So much so that I have had to put the album cover as the group picture heading above. The group appear to be a mixed male and female vocal one. I managed to find out that one constant in their line-up was Ronald McCoy, who has admitted that at least thirty other members came and went over a period of time. They were constantly auditioning vocalists, apparently. This album was, I think, a conglomeration of tracks recorded in the period from 1972-76.
The sound is pleasant enough. Philly-style seventies soul. Whoever played bass does a fine job and there are some punchy horns but overall I can sort of hear why the album remained in the second division. There was so much great soul around, so this didn't quite cut the mustard but is, however, perfectly listenable.