THE TEMPTATIONS-ALL DIRECTIONS.
THE TEMPTATIONS-ALL DIRECTIONS.
When The Temptations were recording what became All Directions, the group were determined not two songs that eventually appeared on the album. One of these songs was Papa Was A Rolling Stone, and The Temptations were absolutely determined not to record the song. They felt that the song wouldn’t provide them with a hit, and that this a backward step. After this, they felt, they’d be back singing ballads like My Girl and Ain’t To Proud To Beg. Having been persuaded to record Papa Was A Rolling Stone, the twelve minute epic proceeded to give the group one of the biggest hits of their career and resulted in three Grammy Awards for The Temptations. On its release, it reached number one in the US BIllboard 100 and number five in the US R&B Charts. The song received a Gramm for Best R&B Song, Best R&B Performance by a Group and even a Grammy for the instrumental version on the B-side of the track. Producer Norman Whitfield who incidentally co-wrote the song with Barrett Strong, must have felt vindicated, as Papa Was A Rolling Stone became one of the group’s biggest ever hits. However, as if that wasn’t good enough, the album All Directions gave The Temptations a huge hit album.
Recording for All Directions had taken place during 1972, with what was the fourth incarnation of The Temptations. With Norman Whitfield producing the album, eight tracks were laid down. The Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield partnership contributed two songs, Papa Was A Rolling Stone and Funky Music Sho’ Nuff Turn Me On, previously recorded by Edwin Starr, which was the B-side to the first single released from All Directions, Mother Nature. It had only reached a somewhat disappointing number ninety-two in the US Billboard 100 and number twenty-seven in the US R&B Charts. However, Papa Was A Rolling Stone would more than make up for this. Of the other songs on All Direction, another prolific Motown songwriting duo, Ashford and Simpson contributed one song, Love Woke Me Up This Morning. Also on the album are covers of Isaac Hayes Do Your Thing and Ewan McColl’s beautiful The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face). This was clearly an album long on quality, with no filler whatsoever. The record buying public realized this on the album’s release, in July 1972.
Before All Direction’s release, the album was critically acclaimed. The continuation of the fusion of soul and psychedelia appealed to critics and record buyers alike, with All direction reaching number two in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. After All Directions, The Temptations next three albums continued to sell well. 1973 saw two albums released, Masterpiece in February, which reached number seven in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts, while 1990, released in December, reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 200 and number two in the US R&B Charts. Two years later, in January 1975, A Song For You reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. After this album, The Temptations albums didn’t sell in such huge quantities, with them unable to replicate their earlier success. Even a brief sojourn to Atlantic Records where two albums were recorded, didn’t help. When they returned to the Gordy and then Motown labels, the commercial success of their earlier years eluded them, although they continued to make fine music. However, the music wasn’t as good as the psychedelic soul stew of All Directions, which I’ll now tell you about.
All Direction opens with a cover of the Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield penned Funky Music Sho’ Nuff Turn Me On, a track best known for Edwin Starr’s version. After a big build up, the crowd being whipped up into fervor, resulting in raucous applause, the track opens, with each of the five Temptations sharing the lead vocal. The track sounds as if it has been recorded live, giving you an idea of just what The Temptations sounded like live. With The Funk Brothers backing them, and giving a tight, yet funky performance, Dennis Edwards, Richard Street, Damon Harris, Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin take turns of singing lead, while the other four provide harmonies. While The Funk Brothers provide a funk laden backdrop, The Temptations, combine emotion, joy and power resulting in an impressive and professional performance. However, due to the track being recorded live, the crowd noise sometimes drowns out the music, slightly spoiling the music for me.
Earlier in this review I mentioned that their were two tracks on the album The Temptations had to be persuaded to record. One was Papa Was A Rolling Stone, the other Run Charlie Run. The controversy here, was over the subject matter of the song, dealing with “white flight.” It was music with a social conscience, supportive of Black Power movement that required The Temptations to sing in a “caucasian” or “white” accent “the niggers are comin.’” Like the other Temptations, Otis wasn’t keen to record the track. However, producer Norman Whitfield persuaded them to do so, and against the track was included on the album. As the track opens, a piano, funky rhythm section and soaring, searing guitar combine with blazing horns as the vocal enters. Straight away, the controversial white flight lyrics can be heard. In them, they sing about people going to church on Sunday, but by Monday they forget what they’ve learned. Instead of togetherness and friendship, the white people became racists, rather than embrace and the black people who had entered their town and cities. Instead, the white people chose to leave these places, and make it worse, by passing their racist attitudes and beliefs to their children. When you listen to the track, it’s powerful, makes you angry and sad, that people could choose to dislike a person merely because of the color of their skin. With a reverberating, funky and dramatic arrangement accompanying them, The Temptations bring the song to life. This is helped by the constant pounding drums and blazing horns, that accompany the passion, frustration and anger of their vocals. As I said earlier, it’s a hugely powerful track, one that makes you glad to be alive in more enlightened times.
Easily the best known track on All Directions is the twelve minute epic Papa Was A Rolling Stone, which closes side one of the album. Here, Norman Whitfield’s production is stunning, the prolonged arrangement building and building, with the rhythm section, wah-wah guitars, keyboards and sweeping, swirling horns. The longer the introduction goes, the more the anticipation builds. You wonder what’ll happen next, where the track is heading? After four and a half dramatic and sweeping minutes, where the ever-present bass is a mainstay of the track, while hi-hats, horns and strings all play their part, the vocal enters. Each of The Temptations have their own part to play. Damon plays the part of the child’s mother, answering thee questions about their late father, trying to add a balance to the negative things they’ve heard about him. Meanwhile rest of the group play the part of the questioning children, with a series of questions being answered by Damon. This is already emotive and powerful, but the addition of braying horns, searing wah-wah guitars, the moody bass and the hissing hi-hats, adds to this. When you listen to the lyrics, there’s a sense of sadness present, that children would hear these things about their late father, and this is made worse by the thought of their mother having to answer them. By the end of this seminal, twelve minute epic, you realize that this is one of the defining moments not only in the career of The Temptations, but producer Norman Whitfield. Not only is the song powerful and emotive, but one of the best songs the group recorded and Norman producer. After all, when you’ve climbed the highest mountain, where do you go from there?
Over the years, Ashford and Simpson were more than just a highly successful songwriting partnership, this husband and wife duo, recorded a number of highly successful albums, like Street Opera and Solid, as well as producing acts like Gladys Knight and The Pips. A lush combination of piano and strings combine as Love Woke Me Up This Morning begins. This is followed by a tender vocal from Damon, while the rest of the group combine to sing equally tender harmonies. Behind them, the rhythm section combine, with the drums playing with an almost jaunty beat. Meanwhile, grand strings, rasping horns, piano and chiming guitars combine to produce a lovely arrangement, perfect for the Damon’s now soaring, passionate vocal which is full of emotion and sincerity. This results in a quite beautiful track, which opens the second side of All Directions.
I Ain’t Got Nothing sees Otis and Melvin share the lead vocal. As the track opens, the sound is understated, but there’s a sense that something special is about to happen. With Otis and Melvin sharing the lead, a slightly moody sounding arrangement unfolds. Key to its sound are the rhythm section who play slowly and thoughtfully, while strings add a sense of emotion and sadness. Adding to the arrangement is a piano which drops in and out of the the track. However, it’s the interplay between Melvin and Otis that adds to the moody sound, especially the contrast in their vocals. This sound is perfect for the sense of despair in the lyrics, especially when the sing “I’ve got nothing.” Here, The Temptations and producer Norman Whitfield combine brilliantly to produce a song that has a sense of bleakness and despair, befitting the song’s lyrics.
When Ewan McColl wrote The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face), little did he know how many people would cover his song. As I said in another article, cover versions of this song can be good, bad or indifferent. Thankfully, The Temptations version falls into the first category, with Richard Street singing lead vocal. With guitar and bass combining, before the piano enters, Richard’s gorgeous vocal enters. He strikes the right note between singing the song tenderly and with an element of drama, befitting the song. This is no overblown version, thoughtful and tender, with a beautiful arrangement where lush strings sweep in, joining the guitar, bass and piano. Together with Richard’s stunning vocal, they combine to produce one of the album’s highlights.
Although Mother Nature was the B-side of Funky Music Sho’ Nuff Turn Me On, it’s a track that deserved a better fate than that. Of the two tracks, this is a much better track than the A -side. Dennis Edwards gives an emotive and moving rendition of the lyrics, while the dramatic arrangement sweeps along. A piano plays an important role, while strings sweep and swirl, guitars chime, drums pound and horns rasp gently. However, although the arrangement builds and builds, with a sense of drama omnipresent, it’s Dennis’ vocal that holds your attention. You become enthralled by it, spellbound, realizing just how talented and versatile a vocalist he is. There’s a mixture of emotion, passion and drama present, which when combined with Norman Whitfield’s arrangement, is a potent and brilliant combination.
All Directions closes with a cover of an Isaac Hayes track Do Your Thing, where Richard, Damon and Melvin share the lead vocal duties. The track bursts into life with the funkiest of guitars, a drama drenched combination of blazing horns and powerful, pounding drums. After this you’re expecting the track to explode, but it doesn’t. Instead it meanders along, with keyboards joining the arrangement which meanders along, with the vocal constantly changing hands. Throughout the track, a punchy and dramatic combination of drums, handclaps and braying horns make their presence felt, before the track returns to its previous meandering, sometimes moody sound. Although quite different from the two previous tracks, it sounds great and is a good and satisfactory way to end All Directions.
For people who were used to The Temptations singing tracks like My Girl and Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, albums like All Directions and Psychedelic Shack must have been a shock to them. The music was a mixture of soul, funk and psychedelia, all mixed together into a soulful stew that’s quite brilliant. During All Directions, The Temptations combined the frustration, power and anger of Run, Charlie Run, with the heartfelt Papa Was A Rolling Stone and the gorgeously, tender The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face) sung by Richard Street. On Mother Nature, Dennis Edwards demonstrates his talents as a vocalist, combining emotion, passion and drama with aplomb. Credit must be given to producer Norman Whitfield. Not only is his production stunning, but he stuck by his conviction that The Temptations should record both Papa Was A Rolling Stone and Run, Charlie Run. With The Temptations not wanting to record either track, Norman managed to convince them to do so. This was fortuitous, as Papa Was A Rolling Stone gave the group a number one single and three Grammy Awards. Run, Charlie, Run was emotive music with a social conscience, full of passion and frustration. As I said earlier in this article, All Directions was long on quality and short on filler. Overall, it’s an album full of some great music, with one of the highlights of The Temptations career on it. That was the seminal Papa Was A Rolling Stone, a magical, musical masterpiece. If you’ve never heard All Directions, I can thoroughly recommend it. Now it’s possible to buy remastered versions of both All Directions and Psychedelic Shack on one album. This allows you hear some brilliant fusion of soul, funk and psychedelia from of one of Motown’s biggest groups, The Temptations. Standout Tracks: Papa Was A Rolling Stone, The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face), Mother Nature and Do Your Thing.
THE TEMPTATIONS-ALL DIRECTIONS.