Music

Teddy Pendergrass: Greatest Slow Jams

Mark Anthony Neal

Teddy Pendergrass

Greatest Slow Jams

Label: Capitol
US Release Date: 2001-01-23
Amazon
iTunes

Teddy Pendergrass had been the striking lead voice of Harold Melvin's Blue Notes for more than five years when he released his debut solo recording Teddy Pendergrass in the spring of 1977. Though the Blue Notes bore the name of the late Harold Melvin it was Pendergrass's voice that dominated their classic recordings such as "If You Don't Know Me By Now", "Wake Up Everybody", and the strident "Bad Luck". Joining the group initially as a drummer, Pendergrass's signature tenor, initially modeled after the great, great Marvin Junior of the "Mighty, Mighty" Dells, helped elevate the Blue Notes as one of the definitive examples of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff's "Philly Soul".

With the release of his solo recording in 1977, Pendergrass would join the ranks of other session drummers turned "Soul Man" -- a group that includes Marvin Gaye and Jeffrey Osborne -- and emerge as the dominant male R&B/Soul singer of the late 1970s and early 1980s. With Isaac Hayes well beyond his creative peak of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Al Green in the throes of a "hot grit" inspired conversion, Barry White becoming a caricature of himself and Marvin Gaye in exile on the run from the IRS and alimony, Pendergrass's solo career was timely. The new collection Greatest Slow Jams collects some of Pendergrass's definitive ballads from the period of 1977-1982, a period that marked his artistic peak and a period that only came to a close because of a tragic car accident in 1982 that left him paralyzed.

The collection opens with three tracks from his debut release including the spiritual "Somebody Told Me", which was co-written by McFadden and Whitehead, who would themselves record one of the most inspirational songs of the era in "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now". The beautifully obscure "And If I Had" is also collected from Pendergrass's debut. The song which was featured in the 1985 film Choose Me -- Pendergrass also sang the title track to the film's soundtrack in what amounted to a comeback after his accident -- is one of Pendergrass's most stirring performances, perhaps only matched by his lead vocals on the Blue Notes' "Be For Real" and "Can't We Try" from TP (1980), the latter of which is also collected on Greatest Slow Jams.

The collection of course includes classic recordings from the era when Pendergrass was known as "Teddy Pender the Female Bender". "Close the Door" which is one of Pendergrass's best known performances is taken from his breakout second release Life Is a Song Without Singing (1978) as is the touching "It Don't Hurt Now". Womack and Womack (Linda the daughter of Sam Cooke with husband Cecil, the brother of Bobby) contributed "Love TKO" for the 1980 release TP, a recording the proved that Pendergrass would survive the "disco" era without crashing and burning like some of his peers, most notably Bobby Womack, Barry White and Bill Withers. "Love TKO" served as the inspiration for a darkly comic moment in the film Sugar Hill where actor Michael Wright (Eddie "how does it feel to be me?" Cain, Jr.), sang the song's opening verse while shooting a member of a rival drug gang. The Gamble and Huff penned classic "Turn Off the Lights" may be the most requested "Quiet Storm" recording from that era, Heatwave's "Always and Forever" notwithstanding. The song along with "Come Go With Me", both from Teddy (1979), represent some of the best examples of Gamble and Huff's ability to write and produce material that best reflected the talents and sensibilities of their artists. It is clear that Pendergrass was made to sing their songs as Gamble and Huff were meant to write them for him.

Greatest Slow Jams also includes some lesser known gems like the exquisite "You're My Latest, Greatest, Inspiration" from It's Time for Love (1981) and the title track from the same recording. The collection is rounded out with "Now Tell that You Love Me" which initially appeared on the recording This One's for You (1982), a collection of new and unreleased material recorded before Pendergrass's tragic accident. Though Pendergrass continues to record nearly two decades after his accident -- he dramatically returned to the stage in a wheelchair performing with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson during Live Aid in 1985 -- this new collection could arguably be titled "the best of". The legacy of Pendergrass voice could be heard in the early work of Christopher Williams and as fellow PopMatters critic Maurice Bottomley notes, contemporarily in the music of Jaheim.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?

Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

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.