Lou Rawls

Family Reunion

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After wowing listeners with Philadelphia International Records, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff regrouped with the Gamble & Huff label. It didn't meet with much success, and if this album is any indicator, it's obvious why -- they're missing many of the key components that help to create the patented '70s Philly sound. Rawls' rendition of "Family Reunion" doesn't belong in the same room as the O'Jays' marvelous original. The best song, "I Wish You Belong to Me," is vintage Gamble & Huff, a simmering ballad filled with heartfelt lyrics, cooing backing vocals, and a tender vocal from Rawls complete with rap.

Three other Gamble & Huff songs -- "Two Happy Hearts," "Jealous Lover," and "Today's the Day" -- lack punch and substance. They sorely miss Ron Baker (bass) and Norman Harris (guitar); the deceased axe players added so much to the sound of Philly. Also, Kenny Gamble and Thom Bell aren't singing backing vocals like they did, uncredited, on the majority of Philadelphia International's recordings. Sources say they supplemented nearly everybody they produced, including the Stylistics, the O'Jays, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, Billy Paul, and the Intruders. Walter "Bunny" Sigler contributed three productions. "It's a Tough Job (Somebody's Got to Do It)" tries to make a statement, but the flaccid production doesn't help. The melodic "When Love Walked in the Door (Hurt Walked out the Other)" attempts to recapture that old magic. However, Sigler's "Who Loves You Baby" suffers from Steve Green's lackluster bass playing; he adds nothing to the flow, but neither does James "D Train" Williams, who plays on some of the other tracks. Where have all the good session bass players gone? Producer Dexter Wansel got an aggressive vocal from Rawls on "Fine With Me," a pleasant mid-tempo floater that Rawls sings with fire. Jack Faith and Rawls produced "Unchained Melody," a disaster that doesn't become ear-friendly until it's almost over.