The O'Jays

For the Love...

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Following their popular downfall in the late '70s, the O'Jays became remembered as and always will remain remembered as the pinnacle of early-'70s Philly soul. Those timeless collaborations with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff weren't just great albums; they were masterpieces, music so good it transcended time and trend. The O'Jays' early-'70s work was in fact so timeless it eclipsed everything the group went on to do in successive eras. As a result, though few probably now realize it, the O'Jays never really went into retirement after falling off the charts in the late '70s. They continued pumping out albums every two years or so throughout the '80s and, though they slowed down a bit in the '90s, still continued making music into the next millennium. But nothing the O'Jays did after their 1977 best-of really made a lasting impression. This is because while their early-'70s work was timeless and in fact established trends, everything they recorded after was of its time and reliant on the trends of the moment. For the Love... is no different. It's an impressive album that once again showcases just how talented the trio really is, with or without Gamble and Huff, and even if they are past their prime here and a little short on new ideas. More than anything, the O'Jays are craftsmen at this point in their long-running career, capable of going into the studio and coming out with a polished, radio-friendly product. Yet as crafted as For the Love... is, it's also of its time. There are plenty of adult contemporary ballads here -- quiet storm for the new millennium. And there's also a self-conscious stab at the crossover audience, "Let's Ride," an amazing single driven by a lively hip-hop-like bassline -- this cruisin' song has the universal appeal crossover songs should. Still, as much as you want to like "Let's Ride" and all the other elegant songs here, For the Love... just doesn't seem like the O'Jays. The voices are unmistakable, but the album plays like any other early-2000s urban album, just as the O'Jays' '80s albums sounded like any other quiet storm albums, and their late-'80s/early-'90s albums like any other new jack swing albums. Instead of looking to Lionel Richie or Teddy Riley for ideas, though, they look toward R. Kelly this time around.

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