Gladys Knight & The Pips – 1973 – Imagination
A pivotal album for Gladys Knight & The Pips – as the record features their super-huge hit “The Midnight Train To Georgia“, a landmark track that not only had a catchy pop hook, but which spoke volumes about African-American migration in the postwar years. The track’s one of those you’ve heard a million times, but it’s got a strength that still holds up tremendously. Part of this is due to great production work by Tony Camillo – who handled arrangements and studio work on about half the tracks – and part is due to Jim Weatherly, who wrote the song, and about half the others on the album. The whole album’s great – one of the best Buddah Records moments for the group.
A1 Midnight Train to Georgia 4:38
A2 I’ve Got to Use My Imagination 3:29
A3 Storms of Troubled Times 3:44
A4 Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me 3:45
A5 Once in a Lifetime Thing 3:41
B1 Where Peaceful Waters Flow 4:24
B2 I Can See Clearly Now 4:28
B3 Perfect Love 2:37
B4 Window Raisin’ Granny 6:09
After a successful run for Soul / Motown, Glady’s Knight & The Pips decided to take a different crossroad, apart from million-sellers like “Neither One Of Us”, “Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Don’t Want To Do Wrong” which all were successful for the group’s resume. This would be another mlllion-seller but this time for Buddsh Records, with compositions mostly from Jim Weatherly, but they are all interpreted flawlessly. “Midnight Train To Georgia” tells of a man “dreaming that someday he’d be a star”, but his road to success becomes a pipe dream and he ends up “back to the life he once knew”. “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination” deals with the result of lament “when a good love dies”. “Storms Of Troubled Times” is when you need a friend. “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” is a perfect wedding song (check out The Persuaders’ version from the Atco album of the same title). Listen to the group’s heart-searing version of “Once In A Lifetime Thing” and then, again, hear the same by The Persuaders and see which one hurts you more. “Where Peaceful Waters Flow” sounds like the resting place we will all go to. As I stated, a million-seller for Buddah Records and peace of mind from a family-based group that made itself a legend in true soul music!
The first album cut by Glady’s Knight & the Pips for Buddah Records was a watershed in their history. Co-produced by the group and Tony Camillo, Imagination embodied all of what Gladys Knight & the Pips had learned in their previous six years at Motown, watching the way their records were made, combined with the maturity of the sound that they’d achieved in that time, and virtually complete freedom to choose their repertory — a factor that they were mature and sophisticated to exploit to the fullest. The result was four hit songs, including the chart-topping “Midnight Train to Georgia” (originally written as “Midnight Plane to Houston”) and one of the biggest selling albums in their history — Imagination was sophisticated soul at its best, Knight belting out numbers with great forcefulness and passion while the group provided delicate backup. Among the surprising non-hits is the radiantly sung “Perfect Love” and a beautiful harmonized cover of “I Can See Clearly Now“, featuring the Pips singing lead.
You can also enjoy their great 1973 album “All I Need Is Time” in our back pages here.