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US released June 2003 - the 2CD set "Psychedelic Soul" on Motown Chronicles B0000582-02 (Barcode 044003865327) breaks down as follows:
Disc 1 (71:29 minutes):
1. Cloud Nine (3:31 minutes)
2. Runaway Child, Running Wild (9:21 minutes)
Tracks 1 and 2 are from the album "Cloud Nine" released February 1969 in the USA on Gordy GS939 and September 1969 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11109
3. Don't Let The Jones Get You Down (4:42 minutes)
4. I Can't Get Next To You (2:52 minutes)
5. Message From A Black Man (6:03 minutes)
6. Slave (7:31 minutes)
Tracks 3 to 6 are from the album "Puzzle People" released September 1969 in the USA on Gordy GS949 and February 1970 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11133
7. Psychedelic Shack (6:19 minutes) - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED EXTENDED VERSION
8. You Make Your Own Heaven And Hell Right Here On Earth (2:45 minutes)
9. Hum Along And Dance (3:51 minutes)
10. Take A Stroll Through Your Mind (8:33 minutes)
11. War (3:12 minutes)
12. Friendship Train (7:55 minutes)
Tracks 8 to 12 are from the album "Psychedelic Shack" released March 1970 in the USA on Gordy GS947 and June 1970 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11147
13. Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World is Today) (4:08 minutes) - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED ALTERNATE MIX
Disc 2 (78:08 minutes):
1. Smiling Faces Sometimes (12:40 minutes)
2. Ungena Za Ulimengu (Unite The World) (4:28 minutes)
3. Love Can Be Anything (Can't Nothing Be Love But Love) (9:20 minutes)
Tracks 1 to 3 are from the album "Sky's The Limit" released April 1971 in the USA on Gordy GS957 and August 1971 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11184
4. Take A Look Around (3:09 minutes)
5. Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are) (2:54 minutes)
Tracks 4 and 5 are from the album "Solid Rock" released January 1972 in the USA on Gordy G-961L and April 1972 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11202
6. Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On (3:10 minutes)
7. Papa Was A Rollin' Stone (12:01 minutes)
Tracks 6 and 7 are from the album "All Directions" released July 1972 in the USA on Gordy G-962L and February 1973 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11218
8. Plastic Man (5:57 minutes)
9. Masterpiece (13:49 minutes)
Tracks 8 and 9 are from the album "Masterpiece" released February 1973 in the USA on Gordy G-965L and June 1973 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11229
10. Ain't No Justice (6:05 minutes)
11. 1999 (4:04 minutes)
Tracks 10 and 11 are from the album "1990" released December 1973 in the USA on Gordy G-966V1 and January 1974 in the UK on Tamla Motown STMA 8016
The 12-page booklet has an essay called "Psychedelic Soul Power" by Leonard Pitts, Jr on the Norman Whitfield Productions between 1968 and 1973 when his leadership and songwriting partnership with Barrett Strong saw The Tempts react to the America they were living in. Battered by the loss of both Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X - and with US troops (black and white) dying in their droves in a pointless `Red' war 6000 miles away and American cities stricken by poverty and racism - Motown's production line of boy/girl songs needed to address the real world - and beginning with the stunning "Cloud Nine" album - The Temptations took it to the world (and were glad to).
Right from the get go - the SUHA GUR remasters blow you away. If I compare the single mix of "Runaway Child, Running Wild" on "The Complete Motown Singles Volume 9: 1969" which weighs in at just under five minutes (released in January 1969 a month before the album - it was a US R&B No.1) - to hear it allowed to stretch out to its full nine-minute album wallop is such a blast - an entirely different beast. "I want my mama!" the inner city child cries just before it goes into a sensational Funk Brothers groove that lasts the final three minutes. The same of course applies to the monster "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" (even though it probably overstays its welcome at twelve minutes). And how good is to hear the seven and half minutes of "Message From A Black Man" from "Puzzle People". The bass and brass of "Friendship Train" sound huge - the group and the musicians laying into a rhythm and a set of lyrics they 'know' matters. And I always thought the simple funkiness of "Hum And Dance Along" is a genuine masterpiece often passed over for more famous tunes (they used it as a Stateside B-side to "Ungena Za Ulimengu (Unite The World)" on Gordy 7102 in 1970).
Disc 2 provides more album Funkathons like their 13-minute radical rework of "Smiling Faces Sometimes" (which became a huge hit for The Undisputed Truth) and the near sidelong "Masterpiece" has that genius bass backdrop (like "Papa") that just builds and builds and the guitars and strings battle it out against a backdrop of words about `thousands of lives wasting away...people living from day to day". "Masterpiece" is exactly what it is. It's a shame they didn't slap on "Law Of The Land" but again you do get the underrated "Ain't No Justice". The two Previously Unreleased versions see different guitar and keyboard funk in "Psychedelic Shack" with alternate vocals and Alternate Vocals on "Ball Of Confusion" - personally I love them both to pieces (anything new from this period blows my tiny Dubliner's mind).
You can't help but think that Hip-O Select should just do a Temptations Box Set for the Whitfield years and be done with it (and one for The Undisputed Truth for that matter too) - but that's somewhere hopefully in the future. In the meantime - get this fantastic slice of Funk and Social consciousness into your life as soon as your bad self will allow. For once the word "essential" doesn't do the genius on display here enough justice...
There isn't one second of filler here. It's ALL awesome! There are the single hits, such as the stomping 'I Can't Get Next To You', 'Cloud Nine', plus the broodingly melodramatic 'Papa Was A Rollin Stone'. The Tempts previous calling-card of layered harmonies, lamenting 'love gone wrong', was mostly banished; now there was a tougher, more political/socially concious approach, exhibited in tracks such as 'Message From A Black Man', 'Slave', the brilliant 'Ball Of Confusion' and the paranoia-on-the-streets of 'Take A Look Around'. Along with Marvin and Stevie, The Temptations were being refashioned, dragging Motown into a less innocent, more politicised era.
Whitfield liked a good 'freak out', and that's evidenced here with tracks such as the very lengthy, very mighty, 'Masterpiece' plus 'Runaway Child, Running Wild'. Best of the lot though is the epic 'Smiling Faces Sometimes', a vocal and orchestral tour-de-force, where cynicism and paranoia run rampant; breathtakingly brilliant!
The vocals are utterly brilliant, whilst the productions simply take everything to another level. It was the peak of the Temptations' career, and soon after this it all sadly went into artistic and commercial free-fall, as the group - and Motown - fell apart. Buy this though; you won't regret it for a second.
This fantastic complication brings together the funkiest cuts from the Temptation's 'psychedelic soul' period, for funk fans who don't want to sit through the schmaltzy ballads that still found their way onto albums (although 'All Directions' and 'Solid Rock' are pretty consistently funky). The band's lyrical content had evolved too during this period and Whitfield had them singing about the social and political issues of the day, such as the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights movement. What continues to amuse me is how Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye had to convince a sceptical Berry Gordy to let them record more political songs, whilst the Tempts would protest against the more socially conscious direction Whitfield was inflicting upon them!
Some of the band's studio albums from this period are hard to get hold of (I had to buy an old vinyl copy of 'Solid Rock' off a well known auction website) so if you're a fan of 60s psychedelia or early funk (or both!) and you want those tunes then this compilation is absolutely essential and covers pretty much every fuzzy, funky groove the band put to record.
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