THE DELLS: We Got To Get Our Thing Together/No Way Back (SoulMusic)

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The latest release from the collaboration between SoulMusic Records and Caroline International pairs two great but often overlooked albums from the mighty, mighty Dells – 1975’s ‘We Got To Get Our Thing Together’ and ‘No Way Back from ’76. The time span is important as it covers a transitionary period in the Chicago group’s career. You see, ‘We Got To Get Our Thing Together’ was the Dells’ final album for Chess/Cadet… a label they’d been with (off and on) since 1951. By the mid 70s Chess was in an economic decline and in the throes of a takeover. Owners GRT (who’d bought the imprint form the Chess family) were negotiating to sell it on again and the ten tracker that is ‘We Got To Get Our Thing Together’ sounds very much like an end of term affair in as much as a couple of the cuts have already been on previous albums.

The two recycled cuts are ‘Love Is Missing From Our Lives’ (the collaboration with the Dramatics that was much later sampled by John Legend) and ‘You Don’t Care’ which had appeared on their 1973 ‘Give Your Baby A Standing Ovation’ album. Both bear all the classic Dells’ qualities…searing lead vocal from Marvin Junior, the seraphic falsetto of Johnny Carter and the on-point, jazz-tinged harmonic support of Chuck Barksdale, Mickey McGill and Verne Allison. Other highlights on the album include the title cut and ‘The Power Of Love’. Perhaps the most interesting track, though, is the group’s cover of the show tune ‘Strike Up The Band’. Prefaced with the fanfare from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, the treatment recalls the Dell’s early jazz combo roots.

‘We Got To Get Our Thing Together’ was originally issued on Cadet, but after Chess was sold to Mercury, it was reissued on that label. ‘No Way Back’ was the official Mercury-issued follow up and it was originally conceived as the soundtrack to a Fred Williamson blaxploitation movie called ‘No Way Back’. In the end three of the cuts made it into the movie while the cover art showed the group resplendent in gangster style outfits!

Musically the bill of fare is a little funkier that their Chess/Cadet output but the vocal interplay remains unquestionably and uniquely the Dells. Indeed the ballads ”I’ll Make You My Girl’, ‘Too Late For Love’ and ‘Slow Motion’ are right up there with the very best in their canon.

‘We Got To Get Our Thing Together’ has never had a CD reissue before, while ‘No Way Back’ was only ever available in Japan in a limited edition, making this release indispensable for lovers of real soul music and as the sleeve notes come via SJF’s own Charles Waring you’ll know that you’ll get to know everything you need to know!

(BB) 4/5