THE O’JAYS; Ship Ahoy (bbr)


Originally released in 1973, the O’Jays’ epic ‘Ship Ahoy’ album proved that their Philadelphia International debut set, ‘Backstabbers’ was no one off. If anything the 8 track album took the trio to another level; moreover, it established PIR as a serious label and confirmed that Gamble and Huff were now major players.

‘Ship Ahoy’ was a masterpiece from start to finish. Its contents covered all kinds of issues with a series of strongly-crafted, mature songs. There were conventional songs about love lost and won (‘You Got Your Hooks In Me’, ‘Now That We Found Love’ and ‘People Keep Telling Me’); there were ecological songs (‘The Air That I Breathe’); there were exposés of hypocrisy (‘Don’t Call Me Brother’); there was a diatribe on the evils of naked greed (‘For The Love Of Money’)’ there was a call for universal love and understanding (‘Put Your Hands Together’); and there was the epic title track – the heart wrenching description of the atrocities of the slave trade. Elegiac and poetic, that song, ‘Ship Ahoy’, was created some three years before Alex Haley’s ‘Roots’ gripped the world… and both still stand today as reminders of man’s potential for blind brutality.

On the 8 song album The O’Jays (collectively) and Eddie Levert (in particular) are at their peak. MFSB have never sounded better and the producers (Gamble and Huff) and engineer (Joe Tarisa) have never been more creative (witness the introduction to ‘Ship Ahoy’ or the oft-copied phasing on ‘For The Love Of Money’).

“No duds here” is an overworked cliché, but in the case of this album, it really is true. The O’Jays ‘Ship Ahoy’ stands with contemporary work from people like Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Isaac Hayes as proof that soul music could make cohesive, prolonged statements on provocative themes in an original and innovative manner; it was part of the process of soul’s coming of age.

This new re-mastered bbr reissue comes with three bonus tracks – a live version of ‘Put Your Hands Together’ and single edits of ‘For The Love Of Money’ and ‘Now That We Found Love’… but given the context, they’re quite redundant; the original 8 track album says it all.

(BB) 5/5