Music

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes: To Be True (Expanded Edition)

Stone-cold Philly Soul classic gets the reissue treatment, complete with bonus tracks and thorough liner notes.


Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

To Be True (Expanded Edition)

Label: BBR
US Release Date: 2016-02-12
UK Release Date: 2016-02-05
Amazon
iTunes

By the time they released 1975’s To Be True, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes were riding high on the success of the Philadelphia soul explosion ushered in by their producers, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Their third release in as many years and one of two released in 1975, To Be True found the group furthering their highly emotive brand of smooth soul to great effect, while also becoming poised as a launching pad for one of the genre’s most iconic voices in Teddy Pendergrass. It’s no coincidence that he is not only front and center on the album, but also listed on the marquee as being a featured member of the group. Within a year, he would be on his own, set to record and release a string of his own chart-topping releases.

But in 1975, Pendergrass was still very much a member of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and To Be True is all the better for this. With Gamble and Huff behind the boards, the MFSB players providing instrumental backing and the group assembled to record at the legendary Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, the pair’s golden touch continued to thrive as three of the album’s singles headed into the upper reaches of the R&B charts. “Hope That We Can Be Together Soon”, a Gamble and Huff original, proved the album’s biggest hit, reaching number one on the R&B charts. A smooth soul ballad of the highest order, “Hope That We Can Be Together Soon” was notable also for the presence of Sharon Paige’s velvety smooth vocals paired with Melvin’s grittier baritone, not to mention it being one of the few tracks on the album not to feature Pendergrass on lead vocals.

And while the group was still ostensibly just that, To Be True was the first time rising star Teddy Pendergrass received co-billing, the album being credited to "Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Theodore Pendergrass". Only 24 years old at the time, Pendergrass was nearly as old as the group itself, it having entered its 21st year of recording and performing in 1975, and his presence arguably signaled the pinnacle of the group’s success and scope of influence. Opening with an impassioned blast of uptempo soul in “Where Are All My Friends", Pendergrass finds himself front and center, clearly becoming the star of the show and proving his worth with each lead.

Relying more on the iconic Philly soul smooth ballad than uptempo R&B numbers, To Be True could well be viewed as the prototypical Gamble/Huff release both in terms of the overall sound and the album’s thematic content. Sharing compositional duties with Gene McFadden and John Whitehead, Gamble & Huff turned in a trio of stone cold smooth soul classics in the searching title cut, “Hope That We Can Get Together Soon” and the heartbreakingly gorgeous ballad “Somewhere Down the Line”. The latter features gloriously smooth harmonies throughout, something largely lacking from the remainder of the album which seemed to serve more as a feature for Pendergrass’ soon-to-be iconic impassioned take on bedroom soul.

Now, some 40 years later, To Be True (Expanded Edition) tacks on a handful of singles edits and alternate mixes. This has long been a tried and true approach in the reissue market and, in general, provides a mildly pleasant addition to an already stellar release. To Be True is no exception. The bonus tracks are of a piece with the album tracks and add little to the overall narrative, but the liner notes help shed light on the atmosphere in which the album was conceived and recorded. And for those who already own the album, this will be the real draw. Everyone else would be well suited to check it out for the original album itself, one of the definitive statements in Philly Soul and a nearly unimpeachable classic in every way.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.