The Temptations – 1972 – All Directions
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A monster album, the one that put them back in the spotlight and signaled that Norman Whitfield had saved the day. Damon Harris had replaced Eddie Kendricks, and there were many doubters convinced the band was finished. Instead, Whitfield revitalized them via the majestic single, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone“.
Despite its length, Whitfield’s decision to open with an extensive, multi-layered musical suite and tease listeners was a master stroke. By the time Dennis Edwards’ voice came rushing in, no one would dare turn it off. The single, as well as “Law of the Land” and others, ended the funeral arrangements that had been prepared for the Temptations.
A1 Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On 2:56
A2 Run Charlie Run 2:59
A3 Papa Was a Rolling Stone 11:45
B1 Love Woke Me Up This Morning 2:38
B2 I Ain’t Got Nothing 3:30
B3 The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face) 3:59
B4 Mother Nature 2:54
B5 Do Your Thing 2:52
By Andre S. Grindle
Of course the same thing could be said of this album that went for any of the Temptations albums following the arrival of Dennis Edwards. Internally,the group were growing more and more discontent with producer Norman Whitfield using the Temptations to insert vocals into his cinematic soul instrumental soundscapes. Of course,the public was moving somewhat beyond the 3 minute soul ballad singer mentality that perhaps some of the members of the group felt a bit grounded in. So while the Temptations were still one of Motown’s chief draws in the early 70’s? Harmony between the band and Whitfield simply wasn’t there. But ever the professionals,all parties involved but their very best and all into this album from start to finish. And it certainly shows.
Seemingly recorded live “Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On” takes the Edwin Star hit and…well just throws on the bluesy George Clinton/Funkadelic type groove on very thick. Surely one of the Tempts funkiest tunes from this era. “Run Charlie Run“,driven by soulful piano and the pointed chorus,uses some…shall we say Dick Gregory/Richard Pryor type language to illustrate an awareness of total hypocrisy among the most racist people-wittily pointed out that double negative personality. “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” was,this far one of Whitfields most commercially successful songs with the Tempts-it’s Isaac Hayes/Bar Kays like mix of blacksploitation wah wah funk and orchestration showcased on a longer version here with a hard grooving Fender Rhodes piano solo.
The remainder of the album consists mainly of ballads,though rather unique ones in “Love Woke Me Up This Morning“-a gently swinging romantic number while the rare Otis Williams lead on the half sung/half rapped “I Ain’t Got Nothing” get’s into a heavier blues attitude instrumentally. Damon Harris takes on Roberta Flacks “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” on a more orchestrated version than the original while Dennis Edwards’ vocals on the almost spiritually inclined (though not in the Christian sense) “Mother Nature” lifts up this already powerful slower tempo jazzy soul/funk groove. The band end the album with a wonderfully sleek groove on a version of Isaac Hayes’ “Do Your Thing“-again showcasing Whitfield’s influence from that end of the Stax sound. And of course, Hayes was likely influenced somewhat by what Whitfield had done beforehand as well.
One thing to say about this album for sure is that it’s funky from top to bottom. Even the slower ballads have a funk era veneer about them. Not only that,but this is perfectly suited to the way the Temptations were starting to evolve. On this album,the band move fully away from the psychedelic oriented sound that was the hallmark of their late 60’s/early 70’s Whitfield produced albums. And they were really starting to emphasis another kind of funk. It was always at the core of their post 1968 era sound. But it was laid to bare by this time: a really foot stomping,gospel/blues inflected funk groove with a strong Southern attitude and flavor.
This especially works for the more chocked, Al Green meets James Brown vocals of Dennis Edwards. Overall this is a wonderful examples of the Temptations rootsier funk/soul visitations.