The weird One is one irregular column on RBMA everyday in i beg your pardon a writer takes a look in ~ an outlier in a band’s catalogue. Album, single, movie role: This tower celebrates the minute when a tape gets weird.




You are watching: The temptations a song for you

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Katarina Pettersson / Motown / The Temptations

When the Temptations gathered in Berry Gordy’s Malibu beach residence in 1974 to begin work on their album A song For You, they were already over 20 records into a job that had taken them much from the life doo-wop of your Detroit origins. Signed come Motown in 1961, the Temptations to be shepherded to the height of the charts by the songwriting genius the Smokey Robinson (who ceded them hits choose “My Girl”) and then, ~ 1967, by producer Norman Whitfield, who provided them through the grittier strength of spirit anthems favor “Ain’t as well Proud come Beg.” towards the end of the ’60s, Whitfield began to use the team as his automobile for widening the limits of Motown’s classic style. Incorporating flower-power outfits, wah-wah guitars and also rampant studio effects, Whitfield turned the group away from love songs and also towards darker tracks increasingly concentrated on social disruption and an individual pain, honing an elongated, cinematic format that became known as “psychedelic soul.”


A track For You is a triumph that funk and swagger, one that mirrors both Motown’s sustained ability to remain on height of popular music music’s an altering terrain and the Temptations’ flexibility.


However, through 1974 this once-new direction had grown stale. The Temptations, now featuring singers Damon Harris, Dennis Edwards and Richard Street alongside original members Otis Williams and also Melvin Franklin, disliked the countless length and intense studio occupational of Whitfield’s songs. Following the symphonic bombast the 1973’s Masterpiece and 1990, both the group and also producer were prepared for other new. Whitefield began his very own record label, when the Temptations went west, complying with the freshly Los Angeles-bound Motown. One of the few of the label’s original hitmakers come successfully shift into the ’70s, it wasn’t noticeable that the Temptations would certainly be maybe to readjust their layout to a still swiftly evolving music scene. No one necessary to worry.

Coming practically two years after their previous release, A track For You is a triumph the funk and also swagger, one that mirrors both Motown’s sustained capacity to remain on optimal of popular music music’s an altering terrain and the Temptations’ flexibility, their gift at relocating with the times while quiet sounding prefer the team that had reduced “My Girl” end a te before. Totally free from Whitfield, the group functioned on the album v a range of songwriters, anyone from Berry Gordy (who added the incandescence “Glasshouse”) to label newcomers the Commodores, and P-Funk alumnus Eddie Hazel. In addition to the Commodores come Jeffrey Bowen, that had created Machine Gun, their promising very first album. On the record, and on similar sessions for Chairmen the the Board’s 1974 release The Skin ns In, Bowen had currently begun to develop the production format that he would perfect top top A track For You. To update the raking strings and simmering rhythms employed by Norman Whitfield there is no abandoning his widescreen scope or luxurious detail, Bowen introduced a more focused, hard-hitting musical style, one that might go toe-to-toe with the horn-heavy funk and also proto-disco thump bubbling through the charts if referencing the control R&B the the Temptations’ peak ’60s work. Bowen also enabled the tape to go back to its roots together balladeers, providing them v the sort of lush love songs for which lock had very first made a name while reworking the strings, horns and drums to fit with the sound of the times.


Album opener “Happy People” serves as a storming statement of function for this potent synthesis. Slide in over warm organs and also paper-thin guitars, the track explodes right into a four-on-the-floor stomp surrounded by squirming base lines and stacked vocals. If the chop horns space straight the end of the Commodores’ playbook – unsurprising provided that they play ~ above the monitor – lock lock and also groove in the organization of a major an essential tunefulness the is vintage Temptations sugar. This party-hearty mood continues on “Glasshouse,” which unfurls its tales of “pill-popping, bar-hopping, wife-swapping” end ultra-tight funk bass, roll horns and also a wordless chorus the leans greatly on the heart anthems of sly & the household Stone. But while “Glasshouse” or the Eddie Hazel-penned stinger “Shakey Ground” lend wildly from contemporaries like Sly, George Clinton or Isaac Hayes, they consistently regulate to do these sounds their own. Part of this is because of the existence of the Funk Brothers, who execute with predictably sparkling precision. Several of it is additionally the Temptations themselves. Polished by year of touring and recording, the team was qualified of anything native tricky five-part harmonies come roaring leads. As soon as again able to document the kind of songs they personal preferred, they comment by transforming in a remarkable collection of vocal performances.




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While a large part of the success the A song For You is the pleasure of listening singers as facile together the Temptations set loosened on a collection of ’70s-style disco and also lush, slow-burning ballads, the pleasure is expanded by the sheer, virtually giddy strangeness of many of the album’s production decisions. Placing aside totally “The Prophet,” a bonkers Lawrence of Arabia-meets-Superfly tribute come Khalil Gibran, or “I’m A Bachelor,” a echo-laden complaint around the solitary life that squeezes one over-the-top drama indigenous baritone vocals and layered strings, this charm is finest found in a collection of small moments that all of sudden burst the end of seemingly common songs. Take it the breakdown of “Glasshouse,” when liquid guitars, border in the lift for many of the track, suddenly emerge for a dizzyingly intricate rhythm lick that sounds more Talking Heads 보다 James Brown, or the random inclusion that a wistful, reverb-drenched saxophone solo in the middle of the otherwise uptempo “Shakey Ground.” The same kind of moment also dominates the album’s ballad-heavy 2nd half. “Memories” start on a billowing cloud of strings together the group sings around winding “like a spiral stair through time,” exploding into a chorus the Sgt. Pepper cellos and surround-sound harmonies prior to retreating to a bathtub of gurgling synthesizers. Similarly, “Firefly” fuses one old-school ballad to wildly-panning jazz key-boards meant to evoke the insects that the title. Remarkably, both ballads genuinely work, conjuring a smooth beauty conveniently as convincing as the funk that dominates the album’s beforehand tracks.


Fans that the Temptations assumed so together well. Both “Shakey Ground” and “Happy People” saw #1 on the R&B Charts, if “Firefly” and also “Memories” would stay in the group’s live set for years. Unfortunately, the magic didn’t critical — Damon Harris to be fired through the group during recording, and Motown complied with up the album v the lackluster House Party. Frustrated, the Temptations soon left the label, and also would never ever have another Top 20 hit. Probably it was inevitable — musical groups have a limited lifespan, and by 1975 the Temptations had been chart-toppers for well end a decade. And yet, v A song For You, the team had not only managed to reconnect v their early sound, but bring it in conversation through an entirely brand-new musical generation. In the process, they created their very own remarkably distinctive variation of what the ’70s sounded like, fusing the sweetest ballads and the sharpest guitar through a gonzo experimentalism all your own. There should have actually been more.