The O'Jays

Serious

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After a long and artistically triumphant association with Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff that lasted from 1969's The O'Jays in Philadelphia to 1987's Let Me Touch You, the O'Jays broke their ties to the legendary Philly producers/songwriters, left Philadelphia International Records, and opted for a more high-tech "urban contemporary" approach with Serious. Obviously well aware of what younger R&B units like Guy, Levert (lead singer Eddie Levert's young sons and relatives), and Today were up to, the veteran soulsters incorporated "new jack swing" and hip-hop elements and made it clear they were intent on changing with the times. But thankfully, the gritty, gospel-influenced belting that made the O'Jays so dynamic to begin with remained. Though Serious (whose producers include members of the O'Jays and Levert, Terry Stubbs and Dennis Lambert) isn't in a class with gems like Back Stabbers or Family Reunion, there's a lot to admire here, including the vulnerable "Out of My Mind," the silky "Never Been Better" and the earthy ballad "Serious Hold on Me." The engaging "Pot Can't Call the Kettle Black" speaks volumes about the O'Jays' outlook, urging fellow baby boomers who criticize their kids' hip-hop to let them be themselves and remember when they were young.

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