HAROLD MELVIN AND THE BLUE NOTES-TALK IT UP (TELL EVERYBODY).

HAROLD MELVIN AND THE BLUE NOTES-TALK IT UP (TELL EVERYBODY).

After Teddy Pendergrass left Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, both Teddy and Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes fortunes varied. While Teddy went on to become a global superstar, resulting in his first four albums being certified platinum and another three gold, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes success and popularity was on the wane. Gone were the days of gold and platinum albums that were critically acclaimed. It was a far cry from their Philadelphia International days, with Teddy singing lead. That was until 1984, when they released their final album, Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), which has been remastered and will be rereleased on March 12 2012. It gave the group two hit singles, in both the US and UK, songs which even today, are some of the groups most popular dance tracks, Today’s Your Lucky Day and I Really Love You. However, before I tell you about Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), I’ll tell you how Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes and Teddy Pendergrass’ fortunes varied.

The last Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ album to feature Teddy Pendergrass was 1975s Wake Up Everybody, released on Philadelphia International Records. It was their most successful album, reaching number nine in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts, giving the group their only platinum album. After this Teddy and the group parted company, with Teddy signing as a solo artist to Philadelphia International, while Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes headed for a new label ABC.

Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ next album Reaching For the World was released in 1977, the same year Teddy released Teddy Pendergrass his debut solo album. While Reaching For the World reached number fifty-six in the US Billboard 200 and number fifteen in the US R&B Charts, Teddy Pendergrass gave Teddy his first hit album. It reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts, giving Teddy his first platinum disc as a solo artist.

Having been disappointed with the success of Reaching For the World, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes released their second album for ABC, Now Is the Time. Sadly, it failed even to match its predecessor, reaching just number fifty in the US R&B Charts. By the time Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes would release their next album in 1980, Teddy would’ve established himself as one of the biggest soul singers of the time.

Teddy released Life Is A Song Worth Singing in 1978, which reached number eleven in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts, giving him platinum disc number two. His next album was Teddy, released in 1980, which was his most successful solo album, reaching number five in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. This gave Teddy a trio of platinum discs to add to the one he received for Wake Up Everybody. By the time his next solo album was released, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes would’ve released their next album, The Blue Album.

The Blue Album was released by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes on the Source label, reaching number ninety-five in the US Billboard 200 and number fifteen in the US R&B Charts. This was a big improvement on Now Is the Time and many people wondered whether things were improving for the group. Meanwhile, Teddy released TP in 1980, which was still hugely popular, despite only reaching number fourteen in the US Billboard 200 and number three in the US R&B Charts, giving Teddy his fourth and final platinum disc. By the following year, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes would switch labels again, when they released their penultimate album All Things Happen In Time.

All Things Happen In Time saw the group back on major label, MCA. However, this didn’t help their fortunes, with the album only reaching number forty-seven in the US R&B Charts. That year Teddy released It’s Time For Love, which reached number nineteen in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts. It seemed even Teddy’s popularity was declining, but the album still was certified gold. While Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes wouldn’t release another solo album until 1984, Teddy would release an album a year. 

1982 was a year of mixed fortunes for Teddy. Just before the release of This One’s For You, Teddy was involved in a terrible car crash. It left him paralyzed from the waist down, due to a spinal cord injury. On the album’s release, it only reached number fifty-nine in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts. After this tumultuous year for Teddy, he’d release one further album for Philadelphia International.

Heaven Only Knows was released in 1983, just after he left Philadelphia International for Asylum. The album was Teddy’s least successful solo album so far, reaching just number 123 in the US Billboard 200 and number nine in the US R&B Charts. In 1984, Teddy released his first album for Asylum, while Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes would release their final album, Talk It Up (Tell Everybody).

Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes had joined Philly World Records in 1982, joining Cashmere, Terry Wells, Bryan Loren and Eugene Wilde on the label. By then, there had been changes in the group, with original member Bernard Wilson and Jerry Cummings who joined in the mid-seventies both leaving the group. They were replaced by William Spratelly and Dwight “Blackey” Johnson. David Ebo and Sharon Paige who left the group in 1980, were replaced by Rufus Thorne and Gil Saunders, who possessed an impressive, powerful baritone. This was the lineup that joined Harold Melvin in recording Talk It Up (Tell Everybody).

It wasn’t just the lineup that had changed by the time Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) was recorded at Alpha Studios. The music on the album was different. Out went the disco and doo wop of previous albums, in came Bunny Sigler to help reinvigorate the group’s sound. He was another former Philadelphia International alumni, co-producing a trio of tracks and co-writing What We Both Need (Is Love). Two other former Philadelphia International alumni were arranger Jack Faith, who arranged the strings and horns on This Is Love. Norman Harris, of Philadelphia International’s legendary house band M.F.S.B. and part of the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section arranged the strings and horns on Time To Be My Lover and played guitar two tracks. Harold Melvin cowrote six tracks, while co-producing each of the eight tracks on the album. With Nick Martinelli and Michael Forte also co-producing tracks on Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), the album featured a huge number of Philadelphia’s most creative people. Would Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) see an upturn in the group’s fortunes? 

While Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes released Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), Teddy Pendergrass released his first solo album of Asylum, Love Language. It saw an improvement in Teddy’s fortunes, with the album reaching number thirty-eight in the US Billboard Charts and number four in the US R&B Charts. Meanwhile, when Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes released Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), on the Philly World label. Sadly, even though the music on Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) was some of the best since leaving Philadelphia International, the album failed to chart. However, three of the four singles released from the album proved popular, all charting.

Don’t Give Up (Tell Everybody) was the first single released from Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), reaching number eighty-five in the US R&B Charts and number fifty-nine in the UK. Today’s Your Luck Day was the second single, reaching number eighty-one in the US R&B Charts and number sixty-six in the UK. I Really Love You was the third single from the album to chart, reaching number eight-one in the US R&B Charts. Time To be My Lover was the final single released from the album, but failed to chart. Although Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) wasn’t a commercial success, the singles gave the group a trio of hit singles. Given the quality of music on Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), the commercial failure of the album seems strange. This was the group’s best albums since leaving Philadelphia International, and featured some wonderful music, which I’ll now tell you about.

Opening Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) is Don’t Give Me Up, co-written by Harold Melvin, McKinley Horton and Michael Forte, who also arranged the track. This track has a very different sound to the group’s previous music, combining boogie with a post disco sound. A combination of synths, drum machines, keyboards and then chiming guitars open the track, before the group enter singing tight harmonies. This gives way Gil Saunders lead vocal His baritone is emotive, almost sensuous, while behind him the other four Blue Notes contribute subtle harmonies. The lyric that the group “promise to be better to you…promise to be sweeter this time to you,” strikes a chord. Although sung in the context of a relationship, this could equally apply the group’s long standing fans, after some disappointing albums. Here, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes sound better, and indeed sweeter, auguring well for the rest of the album. If the other seven tracks are as good, sweet, catchy and melodic as this, then Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) will indeed, prove to be a welcome return to form for the group.

After the infectiously, catchy sound of the opening track, comes Time To Be My Lover, the fourth and final single from Talk It Up (Tell Everybody). It was the only single that failed to chart, which is surprising, given the quality of the track. Featuring Norman Harris on guitar, who arranged the strings and horns, this is a beautiful ballad. With a slow tempo, drums and keyboards accompany Gil’s soliloquy, before he delivers a thoughtful, heartfelt vocal. Drums provide a slow heartbeat for the track, while strings cascade and Norman’s guitar chimes and weaves its way across the arrangement. This provides the perfect backdrop for Gil’s emotive, heartfelt pleas. Later, bursts of understated, rasping horns punctuate the track, providing just the final touch to a gorgeous, emotional arrangement, while Gil delivers one his best vocals on the album. Why the single wasn’t a hit seems strange, given that this is one of the highlights of Talk It Up (Tell Everybody).

The title track Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) is another track that features flourishes of strings. They accompany the rhythm section, guitar and keyboards. This includes a funky, slap bass played by Doug Wimbush, before Gil’s vocal enters. Although the arrangement has an early eighties electronic sound, this doesn’t detract from the song, given the quality of the arrangement and vocal. Gil’s vocal veers between a considered, emotive style, to a more powerful delivery. Similarly, the backing vocals are delivered with an impassioned, yet soulful style. Meanwhile, the arrangement combines soul and funk, with a quicker, more dance-floor friendly tempo of 111 beats per minute. Jimmy Sigler’s arrangement gives the track a real uptempo, feel-good sound. Later, when Gil starts to vamp his way through part of the track, you’re reminded of the classic Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ sound, with Teddy at the helm. This demonstrates the quality of Gil’s vocal. When combined with the arrangement, the result is an uplifting, joyous track, one that’s quite irresistible.

I Really Love You sees the tempo drop again, on a track that has a Quiet Storm sound and style. This is another ballad, with Gil delivering the lyrics about love tenderly, singing of his love for his girlfriend. This he does against an arrangement that features understated, but tender backing vocals, while keyboards, drums and a bass combine. There’s even the sound of steel drums in background, while the arrangement meanders, beautifully along at 84 beats per minute. Like the previous ballad, Time To Be My Lover, this is another highlight of the album, one that demonstrates just how talented and underrated a vocalist Gil Saunders is.

Again, Today’s Your Lucky Day sees the style and tempo change. Here, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes are joined by Nikko, who shares the lead vocal. This is similar to when Sharon Paige joined the group in the mid-seventies. Her vocal is perfectly suited to Gil’s. Both possess a powerful, impassioned vocal, and seem to be spurring each other on to even greater things. They’re accompanied by just keyboards, drums and bass, which drive the track along as the arrangement combines elements of funk and soul. Midway through the track, there’s a fantastic keyboard solo, while the bass plays around it. It gives way to Gil and Nikko’s emotive vocals, as the track heads to its dramatic finish. While the track wasn’t a huge hit in the US, it proved more popular in the UK and Europe. I can see why, with the track laden with energy, drama and power, thanks to its funky, yet soulful sound.

This Is The Love sees Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes drop the tempo again, as we hear another beautiful ballad about love, which features the best arrangement on the album. Percussion from Dr. Gibbs, Norman Harris’ guitar playing, joins lush strings and subtle horns arranged by Jack Faith. Keyboards and the rhythm section both contribute towards the arrangement’s beauty. Gil’s vocal has a tenderness, with his deliver heartfelt and sincere. Again, he’s joined on lead vocal by Nikko, whose vocal is equally emotive and impassioned. When this combined with the best arrangement on Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), the result is another bewitching ballad from Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. 

 I Can’t Let You Go is the quickest track on Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), with the tempo a dance-floor friendly 121 beats per minute. The track also features some powerful vocals from Gil, with his baritone voice put to good use. Similarly, the punchy backing vocals from the Blue Notes, are delivered with emotion, while drums, guitar and keyboards drive the track along. Although very different to the previous two tracks, the track has a catchy, mesmeric sound, that gradually reels you in, until you can no longer resist the tracks subtleties and hidden charms.

Closing Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), and Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes recording career after nine albums since 1972, is What We Both Need Is Love, a mid-tempo track. Often, a group or artist seem to keep the best track until last, and this is very definitely the case here. Gil’s half-spoken introduction is accompanied lush strings, while the rhythm section, guitar and keyboards combine. Straight away, it’s like being taken back to 1972 and If You Don’t Know Me By Now. The track sounds similar, and it’s like meeting an old flame after many years. Here, Gil’s delivery has a similar impassioned and sincere delivery as Teddy’s on If You Don’t Know Me By Now. As the song progresses, the similarities are startling, you almost expect Gil to start singing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” Here, the Blue Notes harmonies are some of the best on the album. Drums add to the drama of Gil’s vocal, while keyboards augment the sound, and later, help build the drama as the song heads to it’s dramatic conclusion. While I absolutely adore this track, which is the highlight of Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), the similarities with If You Don’t Know Me By Now are starting. However, it seems fitting that Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes close their final album on such a great track, one that brings back memories of the group at their Philadelphia International prime.

Although Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ final album Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), may not have been the biggest commercial success of their long and glorious career, it’s an album full of quality music. Among This Is The Love’s highlights are a trio a slow ballads in Time To Be My Lover, I Really Love You and This Is The Love. Another of the best tracks on What We Both Need Is Love, a track closely related to their 1972 hit If You Don’t Know Me By Now. For me, it’s the best track on Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), and is a beautiful and fitting track to close Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ recording career. However, there’s much more to Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) than just four tracks. Don’t Give Me Up is an infectiously catchy track, while the trio of dance-floor friendly tracks Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), Today’s Your Lucky Day and I Can’t Let You Go demonstrate that there’s much more to Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ than gorgeous ballads. How Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) wasn’t a bigger commercial success than it was, seems strange, given the wonderful music on the album. Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) is another album that proves a theory of mine that many albums that failed commercially, feature some fantastic music. This has been demonstrated so many times, with. Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) just the latest in a long line of albums to prove this theory. Like the music on the three previous Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ albums released by BBR Records, Black and Blue, I Miss You and Wake Up Everybody, Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) is another album that features some wonderful music. On BBR Records remastered, rerelease of Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), there are seven bonus tracks, including single and twelve inch versions of track. This includes two remixes from John Morales and Sergio Munzibai. Along with in-depth sleeve notes from J. Matthew Cobb, the sound quality is stunning. So if you’re a fan of either Philly Soul or Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, then BBR Records’ release of Talk It Up (Tell Everybody), which will be released on 12 March 2012, is one that belongs in your music collection. Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) features some beautiful and wonderful music, and is a fitting finale to the long, illustrious and successful career of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. Standout Tracks: Time To Be My Lover, I Really Love You, This Is The Love and What We Both Need Is Love.

HAROLD MELVIN AND THE BLUE NOTES-TALK IT UP (TELL EVERYBODY).

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