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March 02, 1995 - Image 24

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, March 2, 1995

Temptations legacy not over yet

0

By Dirk Schulze
Daily Arts Writer
It's another legacy of the CD revo-
lution: Stick around the music business
long enough and, deserving or not,
someone will compile a box set ofyour
work. For some artists, the oversized
compilations smack of contract fillers.
For others, the sets can prove surpris-
ingly effective, especially when pad-
ded with previously unreleased mate-
rial and assembled with love. "Emper-
ors of Soul," a five-CD collection of
music by the Temptations is a beautiful
collection, covering ground from their
very first incarnation as Otis Williams
and the Distants to four tracks recorded
in 1994.
Few vocal groups have had such a
profound effect on American music
and "Emperors of Soul" demonstrates
exactly why the Temptations were,
indeed, royalty. They had it all, from
the super-bass of Melvin Franklin to
the sweet falsetto of Eddie Kendricks.
In between were baritone Paul Will-
iams and tenor Otis Williams and in
front was David Ruffin, a brilliant lead
vocalist who gave the songs edge,
roughed them up a bit, wrapping his
soulful phrasing around the melodies
like he was born for the role. Other
members have stepped in and out,
passing through long enough to leave
their mark before departing for the
return of another member or the debut
of a new talent. Through it all, the
Temptations have retained their beau-
tiful harmonies, their brilliant
songcraft, their cool and their throne
at the top.
The Temptations have their roots
in a quick 45 recorded in 1959 entitled

"Come On" by future members Melvin
Franklin, Eldridge Bryant and Otis
Williams. Though the song went no-
where, it showcased what was to be-
come the Temptations signature sound:
High and low harmonies, a steady
middle and a rough lead. After recruit-
ing Eddie Kendricks and Paul Will-
iams, the Temptations were born and
soon signed to Motown. "Emperors of
Soul" charts their development with
three songs released only as singles:
"Come On," "Oh, Mother of Mine"
and "Romance Without Finance" as
well as several from their first record,
"Meet the Temptations" and while
songs like "Dream Come True" and
"Check Yourself' are indisputably
great, they are not up to other Motown
releases of 1962. Even a year later, in
1963, the Temptations were still re-
ceiving only second-rate Motown ma-
terial. The songs and the emotion that
the Temptations throw into the work
attest that the band had the skills but
they just did not have the right material
for hits.
The year 1964 began with a lineup
change, with Eldridge Bryant fired for
drinking and fighting and replaced by
David Ruffin. With the fiery Ruffin in
front, the Temptations scored theirfirst
hit, "The Way You Do the Things You
Do." When "My Girl" followed later
thatyear, smashing into No. I positions
everywhere, the band's status as a
hitmaking machine was confirmed.
Disc one ends with the wonderful, "My
Baby," which climbed to number 13 on
the pop charts.
The second disc of "Emperors of
Soul" charts the incredibly produc-
tive battle between Smokey Robinson

and Norman Whitfield for access to the
Temptations. Both writers scored sev-
eral hits for the group, with Whitfield's
songs slowly gaining dominance over
those of Robinson. Included here are
the driving "Get Ready," the aggres-
sive "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep," with
its punchy horn section, most of the
1966 LP "The Temptations With A Lot
of Soul" (including two songs recorded
for that album and never released) and
the wonderfully soulful "I Wish It
Would Rain" from 1967's "The Temp-
tations Wish It Would Rain."
Sadly, the attention paid to Ruffin
became too much for him and his
attendance became lax, talk of drugs
floated around and he was officially
removed from the band in July of
1968. He was replaced by Dennis
Edwards, just in time for a shift in
style. Following the political, social
and cultural upheavals of that time,
the Temptations embraced a more
psychedelic sound, weaving their five
distinctive voices in and around the
mix through a series of exciting re-
leases: "Runaway Child, Running
Wild," "Message From a Black Man,"
"Don't Let the Joneses Get You
Down" and "Ungena Za Ulimwengu
(Unite the World)." Musically, the
band embraced guitar effects and horn
lines echoing Indian chants. All was
not as new, however: Disc three also
features the incredible ballad, "Just
My Imagination (Running Away
From Me)," the band's first No. I on
the pop chart since "My Girl" and the
swan song of Eddie Kendricks, who
left the band shortly after its release.
Things got even funkier for the
Temptations in the'70s and the band's

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The Temptations, seen here in a less-than-current photo, do that:chooglin Motown thing.

further development is traced care-
fully on the fourth disc of "Emper-
ors of Soul." Through a series of
lineup changes, including the sui-
cide of Paul Williams and the de-
parture of Dennis Edwards, the
group defined and redefined itself
countless times, from the epic "Mas-
terpiece" to the brilliant ballads and
funk of "A Song for You," which
features Eddie Hazel's crazed
guitarwork on "Shakey Ground,"
and one of the band's finest perfor-

mances in the form of "Memories."
In 1980, Dennis Edwards ireturned,
followed by Eddie Kendricks and
David Ruffin in 1982. IBisc five
opens with this new incarnations'
slice o' Rick James-style funk,
"Standing on the Top." Tho reunion
ended nine months later when Ruffin
and Kendricks left again, -ollowed
this time by Edwards. Worlking with
yet another new lineup, tie band
turned in a fine performtnce on
Luther Vandross's "Do You Really

Love Your Baby." The final disc
concludes with four brand new
tracks, all recorded in 1994 and all
still worthy of carrying the Tempta-
tions name.
Around in one form or another
for over 30 years, the Temptations.
created a body of work nearly unri-
valed by any other vocal group.
"Emperors of Soul" is a beautifully*
packaged, lovingly assembled tes-
tament to the group's particular and
deep genius.

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By Dirk Schulze
Daily Arts Writer
Just where and when rock 'n'
roll began is a question that critics
love to debate, arguing everything
from Robert Johnson's "Terraplane
Blues" to Chuck Berry, from the
jump blues of Louis Jordan and His
Tympany Five to Bill Haley and His
Comets. Two recent collections on
MCA Records make their claims
not for specific artists or times but
for specific labels. The two CD com-
pilation, "Rock Around the Clock:
The Decca Rock 'n' Roll Collec-
tion" claims Decca Records as, if
not its birthplace, at least the fertile
soil in which it grew and developed.
Meanwhile, the four CD collection,
"Chess Rhythm & Roll," a sort-of
companion piece to the recent
"Chess Blues" set, wants it clear
that it was from the Chess label that
rock 'n' roll sprung. Regardless of
the validity of either claim, both
sets offer a wonderful chance to
look anew upon original rhythm and
blues and rock 'n' roll recordings.
Of the two, "Chess Rhythm &
Roll" is by far superior, not only for
its ability to draw upon a more di-
verse range of talent but also for its
attention to detail and completeness.
The Chess label sprang out of the
Aristocrat Record Company, an-
other Chicago label that recorded
early efforts by the Five Blazes and
Muddy Waters. The original own-
ers sold the label to Leonard Chess
in 1949 who used it to record local
and national urban blues acts, gradu-
ally becoming caught up in the phe-
nomenal growth of rhythm and blues
and its offspring, rock 'n' roll. The
Chess set kicks off with the Five
Blazes' "Chicago Boogie," a show-
case for pianist Ernie Harper re-
corded in 1947 and never released
on an album. Four tracks later, it is
1951 and Jackie Brenston and His
Delta Cats are romping through
"Rocket 88." The tune features Ike

Turner's piano banging and with its
unstoppable beat and shouting vo-
cal, it could easily make its own claim
for the title of first rock 'n' roll single.
Also included on the revelatory first
disc is Danny Overbea's original ver-
sion of "Train, Train, Train," one of the
most frequently covered of early rock
'n' roll songs, along with the original
single version of the El Rays' wonder-
fully ragged "Darling I Know" and Bo
Diddley's eponymous
of the two, "Ches
Rhythm & Roll's is
by far superior, not
only for its ability
to draw upon a
more diverse
range of talent but
also for its
attention to detail
and completeness.
single which soared to No. I on the
R&B charts in 1955. Most important,
however, is Chuck Berry's revolution-
ary "Maybellene." Reaching No. 1 on
the R&B charts and No. 5 on the pop
charts, the song sent a nation of mil-
lions to the dance floor on the strength
of its beat and quick guitar solos. If
rock 'n' roll was still in the nest before
the release of this single, Chuck Berry
taught it to fly.
Though it found tremendous suc-
cess with Berry's sound, Chess was
not willing to turn all of its resources
into mimicking "Maybellene" ad nau-
seam. Instead, the label used the
money from the single to branch out
further, recording artists from across
the country, including Bobby Charles
and his signature tune, "See You Later

Bo Diddley, was it ever so pretty, a little bit of a Chess label master with his guitar, said to be named Lucille.

Alligator." Disc two shows off this
diversity with Bullmoose Jackson's
"Heavyweight Baby," the Four Tops'
burning (and previously unreleased)
"Country Girl," Earl Hooker's solo
guitar rocker "Frog Hop," Clarence
"Frogman" Henry's raucous "Ain'tGot
No Home" and Clifton Chenier's rock
'n' roll meets zydeco number, "The
Big Wheel (Squeeze Box Shuffle)."
The gems on disc three are un-
countable. Chess continued to mine
diverse talents, coming up with vocal
numbers like the Monotones' "Book
of Love," Eddie Fontaine's blistering
"Nothin's Shakin' (But the Leaves on
the Trees)," an early Smokey
Robinson and the Miracles recording
entitled "All I Want Is You" and Rusty
York's rockabilly classic "Sugaree."
One of the best tracks, the crackling "I
Found My Girl," comes courtesy of the

Kents, a band which disappeared with-
out a trace after this recording. Chuck
Berry continued his string of hits with
"Johnny B. Goode" and "Let It Rock,"
on its way to becoming a hit before
Berry was sentenced to prison, effec-
tively ending his career for four years.
He returned in the mid-'60s with "No
Particular Place to Go," which appears
on the fourth disc along with three
wonderful Etta James' numbers and
Bill & Will's funky "Goin' to the
River."
"Rock Around the Clock" is a
decent collection of important
singles on the Decca label but next

to "Rhythm & Roll" it looks skimp y
and inconclusive. While indispult-
ably indispensable numbers like Rcy
Hall's "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goiwi'
On," Buddy Holly's "That'll Be tV
Day" and Jackie Wilson's "Rest
Petite" are included, the chronol-
ogy is slightly skewed. While tl*,
collection makes it clear that rock:
'n' roll depended as much upon othes-
traditions as upon invention, includ-
ing as it does both Louis Jordan's
"Saturday Night Fish Fry" and Patsy
Cline's "Stop, Look and Listen," it:
does not truly show how the old and.
borrowed combined with the new to.

all
mmm

BROADWAY
Continued from page 11
way ... 1992 Musical Theatre alum
Hunter Foster is still in "Grease!"
He's standing on his head on a huge
billboard in Times Square. It's really
an obnoxious production, but Foster
is quite good as Roger (the mooner).
Foster bares it all at the Eugene O'Neill
- you can't miss the theater, it's
painted shocking pink.

form what is now called rock 'W
roll. It may be wonderful to find the
Crickets' original "I Fought the
Law," but the Kalin Twins' "Whe' s
is neither important to history nor.
particularly interesting and its in
clusion is a mystery.
Both "Rhythm & Roll" and
"Rock Around the Clock" are fasci-
nating documents of two labels'
early rock 'n' roll recordings but it
is "Rhythm & Roll" that succeeds
where the Decca Records set does
not: It is both relevant and enter-*
taming, historical and extremely lis
tenable.
reports were quite favorable, and.
rightly so. Kirshenbaum's music i§,
both accessible and catchy, but not
without substance. Keep up the good
work, David. Broadway needs some'
new composers.
BFA Theatre grad Tammy Jacob4
('94) is currently in "Les Miserables"
at the Imperial. Jacobs has quite a
meaty chorus role and she's undert
studying Eponine and Cosette. Jacobs
breathes new Jife into the tired role of'
Cosette; her Cosette is exciting, ex-
ceedingly well-sung, and entirely het
own. I've said it before and I'll say it
again - you're going to be seeing a
lot of the name Tammy Jacobs, per*
haps sooner than you might expect,

Another MT, Doug LaBreque
('88), is in that glorious production of
"Showboat" at the George Gershwin;
he's playing Steve to Lonette McKee's
Julie.
Composer David Kirshenbaum
('94) saw his cabaret show, "Bounc-
ing Back," go up at Don't Tell Mama.
The show had a successful run a few
months ago at the Green Room, and
this time around featured Susan Owen
('93) and Liz Richmond ('91). The

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