THE TEMPTATIONS: Temptations 60 (Ume)

It’s obvious, I know, but the mighty Temptations are a 24 carat soul institution. Now celebrating 60 years in the business, no other vocal group has a CV that comes anywhere near matching that of the “Emperors of Soul”… and what better way to celebrate the 60th anniversary than to do what they know they do best – make music. Thus the imminent release of this wonderful “60th” album – 12 tracks that prove what we’ve just said – the temptin’ Tempts … a soul institution, for sure.

The focus cut here on ‘Temptations 60’ is actually the LP’s closing track – a six minute plus, ‘Come On’. The song is prefaced by a monologue from original member Otis Williams who explains why the Temptations came to Motown and how their career evolved. En route he poignantly name checks group members who have passed on while in the background you can hear echoes of some of the group’s biggest  tunes before the fivesome break into a rendition of ‘Come On’, the song that Otis Williams and his group The Distants were performing in 1959 when Berry Gordy discovered them.

Logically that track maybe should have opened the album but fans know that the Temptations don’t always do things by the book; they like to be a little bit different; to be ahead of the curve or, at least, on trend. And to prove that Otis (as exec producer) has decided to open with something quite different – a contemporary R&B groove, ‘Let It Reign’ which features New York, Hip Hop artist K. Sparks.  Intriguingly, it’s Sparks’ voice that is the first lead you’ll hear on the album. So just as, say, ‘Cloud Nine’ was strikingly different in its day, so too is (at least) part of ‘Temptations 60’.

Temptations’ purists, though, won’t be disappointed. Between ‘Let It Reign’ and ‘Come On’, the album is stuffed with classic Temptations sounds with the real highlights being the sweet, harmonic ballads like ‘Breaking My Back’ (Ron Tyson in fine form on this Narada Michael Walden production), ‘Is It Gonna Be’ (a classic Smokey Robinson production with vocal input from the great man too!) and ‘Calling Out Your Name’ (with Otis himself in the producer’s chair here).

The album boasts plenty of head nodders and foot tappers too with the nostalgia-soaked ‘When We Were Kings’ taking honours. Then there’s ‘Time For The People’. This Ron Tyson-penned song is a throwback to the message  music of things like ‘Ball Of Confusion’ while the lighter, Caribbean flavoured ‘I Want It Right Now’ is totally different – a tribute to the versatility of the Tempts!

In his notes veteran Tempt, Otis remarks: “This album represents generations of unique melodies, lyrics and songs, distinctly our own. Some of the new songs echo our original ballads and love songs, while others capture current, topical vibes of the 21st Century. It also includes new songs that reflect the times we are living in now.” – an almost perfect summary of ‘Temptations 60’. The album is a lovely antidote to the troubles we’re all facing right now. It proves the power of joyful, harmonic soul to lift spirits; in short ‘Temptations 60’ is a masterpiece! Now that would be a great name for a Temptations’ album, if it hadn’t already been done!!!

(4/5) BB