Featuring five now iconic songs, "Super Hits"is a stunning collection of the sometimes overlooked Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. SInger TEddie Pendergrass was an electrifying, even trail-blazing performer (e.g., his "Ladies Only" concerts). He exuded masculine potency and confidence: massively handsome, his sweetly aggressive singing burst through and cut across the band's R & B, soul, and disco sensibilities.
A quick run-through of those classic, all except the first clocking in at over six minutes long! "If You Don't Know me By Now" is an example of Perndergrass' command of tempo and dynamics; the song goes from soft ballad to heated emotion. Pendergrass' voicings, tone, asynchronous phrasing, and physical presence approach that of legends James Brown and Marvin Gaye. "Wake up Everybody" recalls the pro-social messages and exhortations of Gaye, Brown, and the Isleys, exhorting his brothers and sisters to do their best, whether in public or private ("Cut down on drinkin'). At just over six minutes, "Don't Leave Me This Way" offers Pendergrass as a male counterpart to Donna Summers, the long format allows the and and the audience maximal groove time, all punctuated by horns, and Teddys' phrasing inside and outside the beat. SImilary, the band turns the regretful, potentially dirge-like "The Love I Lost" into a pulsing, energetic number.
Pendergrass excelled equally on ballads (although as discussed above, the band blurred the lines between ballads and up-tempo songs), pleading, shouting, putting himself out there. Songs like "I'm Weak for You, Baby" and "Yesterday I Had the Blues" do go on a bit too long, but the smooth Chambers Brothers-like backing harmonies, and Pendergrass' emotion are compelling. While some songs have some dated riffs (thank you once again, disco), they're at least, amusing, and, at best, highlight the band's musicianship. "Bad Luck" features some amazing "Wells" (think Kool and the Gang) and whoops from Pendergrass. His raw emotion, and seeming spontaneity even make the almost laughable Barry Whitesque "Be for Real" eminently listable, although it must have been mucb better live. (He lectures his girlfriend/wife on her excessive materialism, repeatedly commanding her to sit down and listen.
Overall, Pendergrass' muscular singing, his ability to convey raw, spontaneous emotion, and his stage presence make him one of the most memorable singers of the many genres he mastered. The band's tight backing and vocal backings provide rhythm and texture, and the melodies are catchy but personal (with few exceptions, they sound more personally than commercially driven (e.g., "Wake Up Everybody"). Pendergrass is simply a joy to hear: He sounds like a man who loves and clebrates his music, hia community, his masculinity, and himself. He's self-assured rather than cocky, though, and his music wears very well indeed.