HAROLD MELVIN and the BLUE NOTES: To Be True (bbr)

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‘To Be True’ was Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ third album for Gamble and Huff’s PIR set up. Like the first two, its USP was the remarkable vocal talent of Teddy Pendergrass … a fact that label execs exploited to the max. They included Teddy’s name in the billing – “Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Theodore Pendergrass” while the cover photo has the ex-drummer centre stage, resplendent in white check suit while the rest of the quintet pose moodily in more sombre garb.

Musically the menu on the 8 tracker was similar to the groups’ two previous albums. That’s to say it was a well-thought out mix of polished dance numbers and searing ballads. The big disco tunes were/are ‘Bad Luck’ and ‘Where All My Friends’ and both still have the power to fill floors today simply ‘cos there’s little to match the MFSB machine in full flight. No wonder that both were massive hits. The third single from the album was something of an oddity in that it was a duet between the group, and female guest Sharon Paige. Interestingly on it, ‘Hope That We Can Be Together Soon’, most of the male vocal parts are taken by Melvin not Pendergrass. Elsewhere, the set’s great ballads are the title track (complete with a gorgeous monologue) and ‘Pretty Flowers’ on which Teddy proves, if proof was needed, that he was a major league soul player.

This bbr reissue offers two additions to the original album – the single version of ‘Hope That We Can Be Together Soon’ and the Tom Moulton 8 minute mix of ‘Bad Luck’. In the sleeve notes Moulton explains why he considers this album a masterpiece of group soul: “A great artist… great songs… great arrangements… a great production. When you put “great” under the four categories how you gonna lose?” No arguments from this corner!

(BB) 4/5