The Originals – 1975 – California Sunset
If you like ’60s R&B guy groups (and who doesn’t?) The Originals area about as good as they get. While they didn’t produce records during Motown’s truest heyday, and therefore didn’t get the songs of Holland-Dozier-Holland and Smokey Robinson (like the Temps, Four Tops, and Miracles did), they soldiered forth in the very late ’60s and ’70s and offered great music and good albums.
No album was as cohesive and well thought out, however, as this classic. Finally, they DID get the songs of Lamont Dozier, and it is adult-oriented soul music at its best. There isn’t a bad track on the album, the vocals are top-notch, the artwork was fun and contemporary for its day, and the whole piece is in a class by itself.
It starts off with a great spoken intro of “Why’d You Lie“, the strings are soaring on songs like “California Sunset“, and the whole thing feels like a throw-back to a time when beatiful music was of utmost importance.
Thanks to Motown for releasing such a class production in 1975, and thanks to BBR for re-releasing it to soul music officionados in this new millenium. Highest quality!
A1 Why’d You Lie 3:59
A2 Don’t Turn The Lights Off 3:54
A3 It Could Never Happen 4:41
A4 Good Lovin’ Is Just A Dime Away 4:10
A5 California Sunset 5:09
B1 Sweet Rhapsody 4:44
B2 Fifty Years 4:58
B3 Let Me Live In Your Life 4:41
B4 Financial Affair 4:06
B5 Nothing Can Take The Place (Of Your Love)3:27
Review by RDTEN1
Recorded after a personnel shake up that saw former Glass House vocalist Ty Hunter replace C.P. Spencer, at least on paper 1975’s “California Sunset” should have resulted in a masterpiece. To my ears The Originals were always one of Motown’s hidden treasures and teaming them with producer/songwriter Lamont Dozier should have given the group the creative push needed to reach the level of success other “A list” Motown acts had achieved. Needless to say, it didn’t happen – blame Motown management which seemed to have basically released the album without any real attempt to promote it. That was a shame since the resulting album wasn’t half bad – a bit short of Motown classic status and to my ears it failed to reach the creative heights of some of their earlier releases (think 1969′ “Baby, I’m For Real“). Still, song-for-song this offered up an enjoyable set that straddled old school soul (‘Don’t Turn the Lights Off‘ and ‘Nothing Can Take the Place (of Your Love)’) and more contemporary moves (‘Why’d You Lie‘ and ‘Financial Affair‘). To his credit, songwriter Dozier had the common sense to largely avoid pushing the group into the faceless disco arrangements that most of their competition was diving headlong into. Besides, how often do you get to hear a group with four lead singers as talented as Hank Dixon, Walter Gaines, Freddie Gorman and Ty Hunter?
The spoken word opening on ‘Why’d You Lie‘ was way too long and way too lame. The fact the song then plunged into a disco-tinged arrangement was even more troubling. Luckily these guys were consummate professionals and when the song actually got going, they tore it up. Imagine a really good Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes song and you’ll be in the right aural neighborhood.
‘Don’t Turn the Lights Off’‘ found the group stepping back into classic soul territory. Dozier provided the group with a wonderful melody, McKinley Jackson provided them with a wonderful arrangement and Frank Gorman contributed a killer lead vocal …
Overlooking the brief spoken word intro, ‘I Could Never Happen‘ offered up a beautiful ballad that served to showcase their silky smooth vocal interaction … Eddie Brown’s bongos provided the song’s secret weapon. The title was certainly intriguing … and the pseudo jazzy opening arrangement grabbed my attention though the 1920s flapper vocal treatments momentarily distracted me. Luckily once ‘Good Lovin‘ Is Just a Dime Away’ got going it had one of those catchy hooks that Dozier effortlessly seems to churn out. The up tempo title track chorus simply made the song irresistible !!! To my ears ‘California Sunset‘ has always sounded like one of those mid-1970s 5th Dimension tracks – too MOR to be soulful, yet too soulful to really be MOR. Surprising the track wasn’t used to shill for California wines …
Side two opened with the album’s first real misstep – ‘Sweet Rhapsody‘ was a bland and forgettable adult contemporary ballad that had all of the energy of a wet newspaper. While it was nice to hear Walter Gaines’ baritone, ‘Fifty Years‘ was probably the album’s sappiest and most forgettable effort. Way too cute for public consumption … A likeable up tempo number with another great McKinley Jackson arrangement and some tasty wah wah guitar (Dennis Coffey?), ‘Let Me Live In Your Life‘ would have made a dandy single.
A wonderful showcase for new singer Ty Hunter’s crisp tenor, ‘Financial Affair‘ was my choice for standout performance. The song had everything needed to be a mammoth commercial success (except for promotion support).
It took a minute to get organized, but once it did ‘Nothing Can Take the Place (of Your Love)‘ served to showcase why Motown used The Originals as backing singers on so many of their classic hits. The fact of the matter is they were one of the few groups out there with four truly gifted lead singers and these guys blended their voices like nobody else on the Motown roster. Another album highlight !!!
Even though the album was tapped for a couple of singles, sadly for The Originals, Motown seems to have lost interest in the group and the album.