Although Reunion was a chart topper, the group's 1983 Surface Thrills barely made a dent. Changes were in order. Back to Basics marks the Temptations reuniting with producer Norman Whitfield for the first time since 1973. At his best, Whitfield could draw hard-edged and earthy performances from the Temptations, especially lead singer Dennis Edwards. That's certainly true of the first track. The underrated "Miss Busy Body" finds Whitfield's production style suitably updated and has Dennis Edwards in great voice, shouting the immortal line, "Girl button up that lip/And get on up and shake them hips." The aerial ballad "Sail Away" features a vocal from new falsetto lead Ron Tyson. As Edwards took a powder during the sessions, the always engaging Ali-Ollie Woodson filled his role. The hard-edged "Stop the World Right Here" is Woodson's debut and immediately displayed a voice that merged the best parts of David Ruffin and Edwards. The track was Woodson's only appearance here. As Whitfield produced five of the ten tracks, the rest of Back to Basics is pretty much standard issue fare. The biggest flop here is "The Battle Song," which is an excruciating, bravado-filled session featuring the Four Tops. The jaunty "Hollywood" has Edwards exhibiting his penchant for howling over Tyson. It works though. The group's 1980 classic, "Isn't the Night Fantastic," which came from Power shows up here and gets a smooth, atmospheric Whitfield-styled remix, although his name did not appear on the credits. Although Back to Basics wasn't a full-fledged album filled with Whitfield's tracks, what's here is worth listening to.
AllMusic Review by Jason Elias
feat: The Four Tops