25 Miles

Edwin Starr

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25 Miles Review

by Bruce Eder

Edwin Starr's second album is an embarrassment of riches, soaring lyricism mated to a pounding, emphatic beat that won't let the listener go. Released in April 1969, 25 Miles was actually comprised, in part, of single sides, some going back as far as 1967, but was a more unified body of music than the preceding Soul Master LP. It embraced many of the changes that started to overtake Motown Records for the better as the 1960s came to a close, and it got a lot of what it did just right. The topical ballad "I'm Still a Struggling Man," though it didn't do that well as a single, featured one of Starr's most moving vocal performances, and in its lyric was the distant precursor to the musical/social vision that would burst forward full-force on Marvin Gaye's What's Going On -- it's still a love song, but is laced with bitter images and a social awareness that makes it all the more poignant. Aside from jewels like that, and the killer Starr original "24 Hours (To Find My Baby)," the album is also one of Starr's most rewarding vocal showcases, from the rough-hewn passion of "Backyard Lovin' Man," across the tender vulnerability of "If My Heart Could Tell the Story," to the soaring falsetto he generates on "He Who Picks a Rose"; the latter should have made great singles, as could the soaring, lushly produced "Soul City (Open Your Arms to Me)." Indeed, a good three-quarters of this LP could have been perfectly acceptable for AM airplay, so consider the album a gift in terms of accessibility and pop craftsmanship in a soul setting, as much now as then -- even the updating of "You Beat Me to the Punch," which gives it a whole new sound. Surprisingly, Norman Whitfield only produced a pair of cuts on this album, and the more startling of them is the gospel-flavored Whitfield/Barrett Strong number "Gonna Keep on Tryin' Till I Win Your Love," which is a delightful throwback to the sound of Sam Cooke; it makes a good pairing with "Pretty Little Angel," a Clarence Paul/Stevie Wonder/Mike Valvano copyright (and another lost potential single), and they flow right into "If My Heart Could Tell the Story." The whole record is a keeper, and one of the finer under-regarded albums in the late-'60s Motown library. 25 Miles was reissued in 2002 by Motown's British division in a beautifully remastered version, paired with its predecessor, Soul Master, and a trio of unanthologized singles from the mid-1960s, all on one CD.

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