All good things must come to an end so it was with great sadness that, last Autumn, we learned that the O’Jays were soon to retire. Eddie Levert, Walter Williams and Eric Nolan Grant announced that sometime in 2019 they’d hang up their stage suits and get on doing what most seventy somethings do! However, they promised that before they shuffled out of the limelight, they’d deliver one final album – and here it is… a lovely, concise 9 tracker with the apposite title ‘The Last Word’ and , I’m pleased to report that the trio are going with heads held high and plenty of great music. ‘The Last Word’ is every bit as good as any of their earlier classic LPs – even those they cut at PIR! How sad it would have been for such an iconic group to bow out with a shoddy set or a wallow in nostalgia and self-indulgence. No – ‘The Last Word’ is fresh and vital and a wonderful way to end an almost 60 year career.
‘The Last Word’ (due April 19th) has been prefaced by a series of three singles each one serving as a delicious hors d’oeuvre for the LP. First up we had the gritty ‘Above The Law’ – a tough, hard hitting throwback to their socially conscious music of the 70s. Then we enjoyed ‘I Got You’ – another reminder of the great days of Philly…. lush, smooth and sophisticated and there’s more of those lovely Philly flavours on the new single – the zippy, string-filled ‘Start Stoppin” …. lovely as it is, we’re told there’s a Boogie Back mix of the song on the way too. It’s easy to hear why those three have been chosen as lead off singles but in honesty any of the nine cuts would have been great teasers for the set.
The Bruno Mars-penned ‘Enjoy Yourself’ is another highlight and those of you who like your soul to scorch, try the Betty Wright produced and written ‘Pressure.’ (Betty was at the controls too for the aforementioned ‘Above The Law’). My standout pick is the memory-jerking ”68 Summer Nights’ – lyric, tune, sentiment and the song’s vibe remind me of just why I got caught up in the crazy world of soul in the mid 60s. The only other bit of nostalgia that the trio affords themselves comes with the last track – a new version of ‘I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow’ – a song the O’Jays first recorded in 1967! It comes with an Eddie Levert spoken intro and it’s a magnificent way to end an excellent last LP!