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The Sound Of Soul

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Spinners. Mighty Love, Atlantic 7296; The Stylistics, Let 's Put It All Together, Avco 69001 ; Earth. Wind and Fire, Open Our Eyes, Columbia KC 3271 2; The Persuasions, More Than Before, A&M 3635.

   1969/70 was a crucial year in the development of our music. The Beatles were breaking up, Hendrix and Joplin were dead or dying, Sticky Fingers was a disappointment, and many Motown artists were apparently lost in a "psychedelic" haze. Since that time (White) Rock has become almost mined-out at the hands of such as Grand Funk, the New York Dolls, and David Bowie but there's been a rich, deep vein of black gold struck with the appearance of groups like Kool and the Gang, the Main Ingredient, the Chi-Lites, the Spinners, the Stylistics. and the O'Jays which amounts to a veritable Soul Renaissance. The following will briefly focus on the latest releases of a few of these young bloods and also on the newest by the Persuasions, relative newcomers who've made it big covering the R and B hits of yesteryear - a capella style.

    The Spinners latest, their second, is called mighty Love and like their first album which had. I think, four separate singles released from it, ML. has already had two official singles released; the title cut and "I'm Coming Home" although almost every cut on the album is getting airplay somewhere, from CKLW to WABX (the range, unfortunately, isn't that great) a testament, all the same, to its tender, funky greatness. The album was produced, arranged, and conducted by Thom Bell, who, with Linda Creed, is Philadelphia's natty answer to Norman Whitfield. Pa Bell's touch means strings and horns just this side of Las Vegas but likewise means a rhythm section that cooks like Mama was always 'spozed to and still plenty of room for five mournful, joyful, soulful singers known collectively as the Spinners to make the listener very happy. Just be sure to dive past the pop astrology pap on the liner notes and get to the real stars on hot wax.

    The Stylistics have evidently thrown out their "Rock and Roll Baby" with the bath in an attempt to capture the pillow-weight crown of the New Romanticism with Let 's Put It All Together. Tempos are kept down every single cut, the arrangements are utterly uninspired, the lyrics sexist and uninteresting, and the quavering lead vocals by Russ Tompkins, Jr., the falsetto Johnny Mathis, are a new high/low in melodramatics. The single "You Make Me Feel Brand New" is probably more than you need to know about this dog.

    On the other hand. Open Your Eyes, Earth, Wind and Fire's newest will, if you open your ears, go a long way toward inspiring your body and soul. This is the most advanced. and the most danceable album of the three mentioned so far. It is finally the most fun and the only one to make even a token attempt at raising the consciousness of its, listeners. I, personally, find E.W&F's ultimate faith in God as The Answer somewhat lame (that's my problem) but there is a solid put-down of "glory seekers, fortune hounds" and scag dealers in "Fair But So Uncool" and a chins-up anthem a la Sly's "You Can Make It If You Try" in the single release "Mighty, Mighty". This album is absolutely prime quality, no fat and no regrets.

   The Persuasions are attempting to sell us the idea that there's More Than Before this time around since the release of this gem makes their boast that We Still Ain't Got No Band from their last album as immediately empty as a beer can these summer days. Oh. purists will weep and gnash their teeth but More Than Before is a reference to the additional musicians   that accompany The Persuasions on Side Two. Their Declaration of Independence, spare drum and bass rhythms riding, opens the side with "Occapella", writ by Allen Toussaint --


      Pardon me but you can use it,

     We got a band to make music


   You got soul, now don't you lose it

   We gonna make a little music             Everything'll be mellow

   We gonna sing it occapella, hmmmm which is as much explanation/apology as we get before they launch into some happy, unaccompanied bomping. The rest of the side is chock full of other delights, especially "Until They Say Mercy" which has a floating, understated reggae feel and impassioned lyrics that promise that The Persuasions'll use the weapons they use best to "rock Them until they can't stand it".

   Side One is a totally acapella live performance, recorded in California in February. The guys do it extra nice to Gladys' I've got To Use My Imagination" and two old Tempts classics, "Gonna Keep On Tryin' Till I Win Your Love" and "Beauty's Only Skin Deep". Anyway, if wasted English perversity has got you feeling blue and wondering which way to turn, you might just flip on that old AM squawk box occasionally and in (almost) no time find yourself tying on your high-heeled sneakers and smiling. 

           ---Bill Adler