THE TEMPTATIONS: Back To Front (Label: New Door)

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The last Temptations’ album – the Motown covers set – was a bit of a disappointment. This new 11 tracker is a collection of covers too – but, it’s a lot, lot better. Why? Well my contention is that the original Snake-pit-recorded Motown songs are unique and for all kinds of reasons the magic can never be recreated… but here the chosen songs don’t have such a unique identity. Many of them have been covered many times before so in some ways there’s no defining template. For example, one of the best cuts here is a sweet harmonised version of ‘How Deep Is Your Love’. What should we compare it with? The Bee Gees original… Luther’s version … even Take That’s take? None really – the Tempts’ new version simply adds to the song’s lineage, and the same could be said for the lovely versions of ‘Minute By Minute’, ‘Don’t Ask My Neighbours’ and ‘Love Ballad’. Where things don’t work quite so well is when the songs are still fondly remembered in their original contexts – so for instance, ‘Hold On I’m Comin’ will always be Sam and Dave’s while ‘Respect Yourself’ will forever belong to the Staple Singers. Don’t get me wrong – the Tempts do a great job, but add little new to the tunes. When they and producers Steve Harvey and Benjamin Wright really put their minds to it, though, they can revive very old favourites – notably Barry White’s ‘Never Never Gonna Give Ya Up’ and Harold Melvin’s ‘Wake Up Everybody’ – both of which feature the group’s new boy, Bruce Williamson, who’s clearly not daunted by taking on big Bazza and Teddy P. The others songs featured on the set are the Bobby Womack-penned/Wilson Pickett hit ‘I’m In Love’, LTD’s ‘Back In Love Again’ and the pop standard ‘Let It Be Me’ … all are well-worth the price of the album, which is currently available through Universal’s Import Music Services.
(BB) 4/5