The Undisputed Truth – 1972 – Face to Face With The Truth
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Always a bit further out than the Temptations, this album is a leap forward from the self -titled debut of the previous year. Features a nine minute plus version of Marvin’s “Whats Goin On”. Psychedelic funk for fans of Sly and Funkadelic/Parliament.
1. You Make Your Own Heaven and Hell Right Here on Earth (7:00)
2. What It Is? (4:58)
3. Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite the World) Friendship Train (8:54)
4. Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are) (3:10)
5. Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me (4:04)
6. Don’t Let Him Take Your Love from Me (5:26)
7. What’s Going On (9:24)
Crafted by Norman Whitfield, Motown’s most adventurous producer of the time, it employed the funk-psychedelic guitars and ominous, socially aware lyrics that were also characteristic of his work with the Temptations during the period. He wrote most of their material (sometimes in association with Barrett Strong), and used their sessions as a laboratory to devise funk rhythms and psychedelic guitar effects.
As another vehicle for the talents of producerNorman Whitfield, soul trio The Undisputed Truth never quite enjoyed the same success as his other notable musical charges, The Temptations. With hits like “Ball of Confusion” and “Cloud Nine” The Temptations pointed the way to soul music’s future in the late 1960s and early 70s. Their other great hit of the era, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, was originally recorded by the lesser known group, before getting its definitive reworking with The Temps.
Released in 1972, the spirit of the age is very evident on this record. The conscious lyrics, the psychedelic riffs and dark and brooding funk rhythms- it’s a world away from the assembly line pop of Motown’s golden era. Joe Harris’s heavy baritone is rich and clear, making “You Make Your Own Heaven And Hell Right Here On Earth” a compelling lesson in the era’s political realities.
Like Rotary Connection they may have been a little ahead of their time, and perhaps a little way out for many. That said, most of the tracks have stood up well to the passing of the decades. (Apart from the baffling inclusion of a funk-light cover of “Take Me In Your Arms & Love Me.”) There’s even an introspective and mellow version of Marvin Gaye’s “Whats Going On” that, despite the risks, works well.
The Undisputed Truth offered Norman a space to experiment in, exploring ideas he would later refine with his more mainstream projects. And, although theres nothing quite as good here as the bands earlier hit “Smiling Faces Sometimes”, this album offers a fascinating insight into the mind of one of soul’s most adventurous producers.