The group which was in many ways the ultimate Motown unit, The Temptations, once epitomised the label’s sound through releases such as the 1964 hit “My Girl” (from The Temptations Sing Smokey). Now,despite having only one of their original line-up (Otis Williams), The Temptations are still making quality music 39 years after their original formation. Following the success of 1998’s Phoenix Rising, they return with a brand new album, which may not feature anything quite as majestic as “Stay” (which incidentally sampled “My Girl” to great effect) or “False Faces,” but is still well worth investigating.
Back in the day, The Temptations set the standard for romantic soul singing. Significantly, this was a trend which continued both on their last set (“Tempt Me” and “This Is My Promise”), and here on their latest offering. For some modern two-step magic look no further than both “It’s Alright to Be Wrong” and “Your Love.” Nevertheless, as the near 12-minute funk epic “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” will testify, there was of course another side to The Temptations. Thus lifting the tempo somewhat are the quirky “Selfish Reasons,” the brassy “Elevator Eyes” (featuring Wanda Vaughn of The Emotions) and “I’ll Just Go Crazy,” which despite a curious intro turns out to be a rather tasty groover. In addition to these we have the folky “Got to Get on the Road” and the funky hand-clapper “Party”.
However, as “Ball of Confusion” will show, the group was also unafraid to tackle political issues. On Ear-Resistable the socially conscious moment comes in the shape of “Error of Our Ways,” which once again features the vocals of Wanda Vaughn. Interestingly, this track appeared previously in the 1994 box-set Emperors of Soul. Originally cut before the death of Williams’ co-founding member Melvin Franklin, the song had previously featured the vocals of the late singer. Six years later “Error of Our Ways” has now resurfaced with the vocals of the group’s most recent edition Terry Weeks. Having been part of the Phoenix Rising project, Weeks first came to prominence through a Motown group (For Lovers Only) whose executive producers were none other than Williams and Franklin.
Ear-Resistable‘s three killer cuts come in the shape of “I’m Here,” “Proven & True,” and “Kiss Me Like You Miss Me”. Produced by the ever-excellent Joe, “I’m Here” is a mid-tempo gem that seems to be the most likely candidate for a single release, whilst “Proven & True” is a ballad of the highest order penned by Gerald Levert and Joe Little. Ron Tyson’s falsetto really shines here. However, the pick of the bunch has to be the urgent “Kiss Me Like You Miss Me.” Having provided the intoxicating “Tempt Me” for their last set, Narada Michael Walden returns to bless The Temptations with this superb string-laced track.
All in all, with top quality vocals and a song for every mood this is a balanced album which has something for everyone. With the distinct ability to constantly modify their sound, Ear-Resistable, much like its predecessor, sees The Temptations continue their remarkable career with an album that fits perfectly into a contemporary setting. However, that is not to say that they have lost their past magic. Indeed, it is the manner in which they are able to balance their classic vocals/harmonies with more modern sounds that should ensure that they will be around for many years to come. Long may they continue.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
// Notes from the Road
"Saul Williams played a free, powerful Summerstage show ahead of his appearance at Afropunk this weekend.READ the article