Although the title could be interpreted to portend the relationship between Eddie Kendricks and his longtime record label, contextual and lyrical clues would suggest Goin' Up in Smoke (1976) has a motif of triumph over tragedy. In many ways it is a continuation of the work that had begun on He's a Friend (1976) with songwriter/arranger and multi-instrumentalist Norman Harris back at the helm of the same Philly-based Stigma Sound Studio with many musicians likewise making encore appearances. With pop and soul music having been temporarily hijacked by disco, it stands to reason that Harris' scores reflect the latest trend in pop music. All the more significant is that the title song joined "Goin' Up in Smoke," "Music Man," "Born Again," and "Thanks for the Memories" as they collectively sent the LP to a very respectable number 11 on the then-recently created Dance/Disco survey. That impressive accomplishment aside, in retrospect Kendricks does not seem well served by the aggressive brass section. He occasionally struggles to be heard over them. Or perhaps producers intentionally buried the vocalist deep inside the mix as to not get in the way of the four-on-the floor beat. To a similar effect, the slow churning of "The Newness Is Gone" is awash in overbearing strings that sadly detract from the intimacy of the artist's performance. While the heart is definitely in the right place, "Don't You Want Light" is little more than an homage to "The Hustle" and again, does little to reveal the singer's talents.
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