Having left Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes to become a solo singer, things had been going well for Teddy by June 1979, when his third solo album was due for release. His two previous albums Teddy Pendergrass, released in June 1977, had reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts, resulting in the album being certified platinum, while Life Is a Song Worth Singing reached number eleven in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. Like its predecessor, it too was certified platinum. Could Teddy, his third solo album match the success of his first two albums on its release?
Teddy had been recorded at Sigma Sound Studio, where so many of the great Philadelphia International albums had been recorded. Eight songs were on the album, with four written by Gamble and Huff, including Turn Off the Lights, the most successful single on the album. With Gamble and Huff producing four tracks, Thom Bell two tracks, with Gene McFadden and Sherman Marshall one each, then some of the most talented people at Philadelphia International were working on the album. As if that wasn’t enough, Jack Faith, John Usry Jr., and Dexter Wansel all arranged tracks on Teddy. During 1978 and 1979 the eight tracks were recorded, with M.F.S.B. Mk 2 backing Teddy. Now that the album was recorded, it was due to be released in June 1979.
On its release, it reached number five in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. Not only was this Teddy’s most successful chart placing in the US Billboard 200, but it was Teddy’s third US R&B number one album and his third album to be certified platinum. Two singles were released from the album, Turn Off the Lights which reached number forty-eight in the US Billboard 100 and number two in the US R&B Charts, while Come Go With Me reached number fourteen in the US R&B Charts. With a critically acclaimed album and two US R&B hit singles, Teddy had been another successful solo album from Teddy which I’ll now tell you about.
Teddy opens with Come Go With Me, the first of four tracks written and produced byGamble and Huff, with Jack Faith arranging this track. This was the first of two “bedroom ballads,” with Teddy pleading to “come on over to my place tonight, I don’t wanna be lonely,” against a lush backdrop where strings sweep in, flourishes of piano and a slow rhythm section combine with chiming guitars. As the song progresses slowly, horns drench Jack Faith’s beautiful arrangement, with Teddy’s desperate pleas sitting above the arrangement. Not only is it a gorgeous slice of seductive soul, one that puts Barry White and Marvin Gaye in the shade, but it’s one of the album’s finest, smoothest songs.
The same combination of Gamble and Huff writing and producing the track, while Jack Faith arranges it, combine brilliantly again with Turn Off the Lights. Teddy continues in the same vein, with another slow, seductive ballad, where strings are at the forefront of the arrangement as a Hammond wails and the rhythm section combine playing thoughtfully with bursts of drama. Meanwhile, Teddy combines emotion and passion, his vocal six minutes of sexy, sultry, seductive soul. With bursts of rasping horns, a Hammond organ adding atmosphere and drums combining slowly with the sweetest of strings while backing vocals accompanying him, Teddy’s seductive pleas are almost irresistible on this quite brilliant, beautiful bedroom ballad.
After two great songs from the masters, Gamble and Huff, resulting in two of the album’s best tracks, producer Thom Bell and arranger Anthony Bell have a lot to live up to on I’ll Never See Heaven Again. It’s a slow, gentle track shivering strings and chiming guitars combining with the rhythm section and keyboards, while Teddy gives a tender, thoughtful vocal. Here, we see a very different side to Teddy, gone are the seductive pleas and passionate vocals, replaced by a lonely Teddy, having lost the woman he loved. The arrangement combines lush, sad quivering strings combine with guitars while bursts of punchy horns, together with drums, add drama to the sadness and emotion of the track. Later, Teddy delivers a heartfelt and heartbroken vocal, against the saddest of string drenched arrangements.
Sherman Marshall and Darnell Jordan contribute another sad and emotive track All I Need Is You, that requires a powerful and emotive delivery. Accompanied by female backing vocalists who are a tender counterpoint to Teddy’s power, passion and emotion, this contrast in styles works beautifully. They combine against a slow sweeping arrangement, where strings sweep sadly, a piano plays, combining with drums and horns as the arrangement grows. Likewise, Teddy’s vocal grows in power as he desperately pleads with his girlfriend to spend the night with him, while the backing vocalists sing with a subtlety and tenderness. Meanwhile shimmering guitars and lush, strings slowly and sadly combine, providing the saddest of backdrops for an insecure and desperate Teddy.
Side two of Teddy opens with a quite different sounding track If You Know Like A Know co-written by Jerry Cohen with another legendary Philadelphia International duo McFadden and Whitehead. Similarly, Gene McFadden produces the track, and he does an excellent job here. During this really quick track, Teddy really growls and vamps his way through this track while strings swirls and sweep, horns punctuate the track and the funkiest of bass lines accompanies Teddy. With The Jones Girls sweet backing vocals accompanying Teddy, they provide the perfect contrast to Teddy’s rough, growl on this funky stomper. Later, a Hammond organ wails, while strings quiver and shiver, and punchy drums and horns add to the drama. Although very different from all the tracks on side one, this is a hook laden, funk drenched track that’s hugely catchy and sounds fantastic.
Do Me was the third of the four Gamble and Huff penned and produced tracks. It’s another really fast track with a great arrangement from John Usry Jr. Again, the bass plays an important part in the track, it’s fast and funky, with chiming guitars and drums accompanying it, before blazing horns and swirling strings enter. Atop the arrangement, sits a sassy, ballsy vocal from Teddy, full of confidence, as he vamps his way through the vocal. Behind him, strings swirl, flourishes of piano and rasping horns combine to make a brilliant sounding arrangement. What makes this such a stunning track is Teddy’s vocal, John Usry Jr. stomping arrangement Gamble and Huff’s trademark top quality production.
So far, Teddy has been devoid of any poor tracks and with two tracks left, will this continue to be the case? Set Me Free opens with gentle keyboards and a harp combining before hi-hats and slow strings gradually enter, the arrangement suddenly bursting into life into something quite unexpected and dramatic. With searing guitars blazing horns and then Teddy’s sad vocal enters. He’s full of hurt, wanting set free from a relationship gone bad. By now, horns drench the arrangement, while swirling strings and drama laden drums enter. With The Delfonics era horn sound, this could only mean Thom Bell produced the track, and this is indeed the case. Here he arranges and produces the track, and doesn’t let the side down, producing an emotive and dramatic sounding track, that’s a welcome addition to a stunning album.
Completing a run of eight great tracks on one album, no mean feat, given there’s usually one poor track on any album, is the last of the four Gamble and Huff tracks, Life Is A Circle. This track, like the three previous ones, is classic Gamble and Huff, and is a song with a message behind it. The tempo is quicker, with searing guitars, percussion and rhythm section combining with a gentle vocal from Teddy, quickly transformed into almost a roar. Here, Gamble and Huff’s lyrics contain some words of truth and things that we’d do well to remember. They tell us “you can’t respect anybody, until you respect yourself” and “you can’t love somebody until you love yourself.” Teddy almost roars these words of wisdom, against a fast, furious and funky backdrop, where strings swirl, percussion plays an important part, while soaring, searing guitars and the rhythm section combine. It’s a great sounding track, with thoughtful lyrics from Gamble and Huff and a vocal from Teddy full of passion and emotion.
Teddy is almost a track of two sides, with side one full of bedroom ballads and slow, sad songs, while the tempo increases on side two, and things get faster and just a little funky. Interestingly, two of the album’s best tracks open the album Come Go With Me and Turn Off the Lights. In fact, of the four tracks on side one of the album, all of them are very beautiful. With side two opening with another of the track’s highlights, If You Know Like I Know, co-written by Jerry Cohen with McFadden and Whitehead, then this is an equally strong start to side two. The quality keeps up on the two other tracks by Gamble and Huff and hugely sad Thom Bell produced Set Me Free. Overall, side two is quite different from side one, but in its way, just as good. This is an unusual album, with every track as good as the preceding track. There’s no filler here, just eight stupendous slices of the smooth and funky soul music from Teddy Pendergrass, one of the real superstars of soul. Like his first two albums Teddy Pendergrass and Life Is a Song Worth Singing, Teddy was both critically acclaimed and a huge commercial success. His decision to leave Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes was vindicated, and suddenly, Teddy Pendergrass was bigger than Marvin Gaye and Barry White. Indeed, Teddy Pendergrass had come a long way in the first two years of his solo career, which had resulted in two US R&B number one albums and his first three solo albums certified platinum. However, unbelievably, things would get even better in the future, with more gold and platinum discs following and Teddy Pendergrass becoming an even bigger soul superstar than he already was. Standout Tracks: Come Go With Me, Turn Off the Lights, If You Know Like I Know and Do Me.