In the '60s, you didn't have to live in the Deep South to have a Southern R&B sound. Aretha Franklin lived in Detroit, but many of her '60s recordings favored the rawness and toughness of Southern soul over the sleeker, more pop-influenced soul that was coming out of Detroit as well as Chicago and Philadelphia. And even though the Ohio Players were from Dayton, many of their early recordings sound like they could have been recorded in Memphis. Produced by Johnny Brantley in New York, Observations in Time is full of songs that would have been perfect for a Sam & Dave or Rufus Thomas session; there is no shortage of Southern-style grit on "Street Party," "The Man That I Am" or the single "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow" (which was a minor hit). However, some of these 1968 recordings hint at the type of jazz-influenced experiments that the Players would provide at Westbound in the early '70s. The jazz influence is strong on imaginative versions of the standards "Over the Rainbow" and "Summertime," and "Cold Cold World" is the sort of jazz/blues item that one would have expected from Lou Rawls, Jimmy Witherspoon, or Bobby "Blue" Bland in the '60s. So even though the Players offer a lot of Southern-minded R&B on Observations in Time (which was their only album for Capitol), they aren't afraid to branch out and try some other things.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson