The Temptations

1990

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Even as the name projects the vocalists some 17 years in the future, 1990 (1973) clearly offers up the unmistakable sound of the early-'70s Temptations. At this point, the lineup boasted founding members Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin alongside David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks' respective replacements, Dennis Edwards and Ricky Owens. The most recent recruit, Richard Street, had taken his cues from Paul Williams in the summer of 1971. The concurrently modern sound of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" filtered into 1990. The primary difference being the instrumental support, now consisting of an amalgam of the Funk Brothers and members of the Los Angeles-based Rose Royce ("Car Wash") aggregate. The results were a favorable mix of compelling singles, such as the R&B chart-topper "Let Your Hair Down" as well as a pair of additional Top Ten entries with the resplendent "Heavenly" and the wah-wah funk fest "You've Got My Soul on Fire." As they had done on the unedited version of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and more recently the title track of their previous effort, Masterpiece (1973), the Temptations stretch out with the extended social commentary "Zoom." The organic pondering groove rises from a cacophony of spoken dialogue as the trippy soul interplanetary vibe perfectly aligns with the celestial lyrics. Norman Whitfield's string score supplies some nice atmospheric touches throughout and appropriately concludes his decade-plus association with the band. Although not as strong as its predecessor, 1990 climbed to number two on the R&B countdown and made its way into the Top 20 pop survey. Sadly, its success was clouded by the suicide of co-founder Paul Williams in August of 1973. It would be over a year before the band would release their follow-up, A Song for You -- a considerable span compared to the downtime between any of their previous long-players.

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