According to the liner notes, the Temptations line-up for both these albums was David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Otis Williams (tenor vocals), Paul Williams (baritone vocal) and Melvin Franklin (bass vocal), but by the time The Temptations Wish It Would Rain had come out in August 1968, David Ruffin had left the group and gone solo to Motown the month before. Dennis Edwards had already taken his place on stage and may be present on some of the more recent of these recordings. Mostly produced by Norman Whitfield, the album was to yield four singles in the US, the UK or both, including the memorable I Wish It Would Rain, the first Motown single to include sound effects and a US Top Five hit. It came out in December 1967, preceding the album by nine months, and appears here at a four-second foreshortened 2.42.
Like its follow up, I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You), also with one of David Ruffin's most heartfelt vocals, the lyric to I Wish It Would Rain was written by Roger Penzabene, who was vividly experiencing the emotions he wrote about in his songs for the Temptations and Gladys Knight and the Pips (End Of Our Road) from this time, and who was to commit suicide before he could benefit from their success.
Former regular producer Smokey Robinson contributes two songs; Cindy, which could easily have been a single had Norman Whitfield allowed it, and the cheerier up-tempo Fan The Flame. Gonna Give Her All The Love I've Got is their version of the song Norman Whitfield had already given Jimmy Ruffin a hit with. He Who Picks A Rose was later covered by the Carstairs and Rare Earth, and by Edwin Starr on the B-side of his hit War. The Henry Cosby-produced I Truly Truly Believe was led by Melvin Franklyn and was an R&B hit in its own right after appearing as the B-side of I Wish It Would Rain. The album closer had a classic Motown sound and groove. No Man Can Love Her Like A Do had a rare composer credit for Eddie Kendricks and was co-written with Norman Whitfield and Motown-mainstay Eddie Holland.
This was to be the last album in the classic Temptations style as the next release debuted their new acid soul sound. This was even more startling given that the album that had preceded this one was a selection of Broadway standards.
Berry Gordy, the label boss, always had one business foot in the more sophisticated (i.e. square) adult (particularly white adult) mainstream market, and a number of his acts found themselves recording live albums at the Talk Of The Town or the Copa, or in the studio for a glitzy collection of jazzed-up standards, and the Temptations were no exception.
In A Mellow Mood is an odd coupling as it was full of show tunes like Hello, Young Lovers (from The King and I), Somewhere (from West Side Story), Try to Remember (from The Fantasticks) (perhaps inspiring Gladys Knight), Who Can I Turn To (from The Roar Of The Greasepaint, The Roar Of The Crowd) and Ol' Man River (from Showboat).
On Ol' Man River, for which Melvin Franklyn sings a bass lead, they wisely use the less racist lyric revision by Paul Robeson, who originally sang it. The Frank Sinatra song book is raided for That's Life, For Once in My Life and The Impossible Dream (the latter from Man Of La Mancha), and Gilbert Bécaud's popular What Now My Love? is aired along with several others.
The oddest track is a reworking of the Holland-Dozier-Holland tune I'm Ready For Love, a hit for Martha and the Vandellas the year before. It retains its traditional bass line and tempo but a jazz element has been added. This sits uncomfortably at first both with memories of the original and with the rest of this album, but becomes addictive after a couple of listens and then seems far too short. The Motown house band does an absolutely fantastic job throughout, showing they can be play in any style with ease, whilst the Temptations show that they are equally adept in the harmony department, though one does wonder what these outings did for their credibility and positioning as spokesmen for the hip radical left