The O'Jays

I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow: The Bell Sessions, 1967-1969

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The O'Jays' stay at Bell Records, immediately preceding their hookup with the Gamble & Huff production team, saw them land three strong- to mild-charting soul singles. But even though they had nearly a decade of recording under the belt, they really didn't hit their stride until becoming a big part of the Philly sound. With Bell, as documented by this compilation, they were a good sweet soul harmony group, though not one with the kind of ace material and production needed to make them big stars. So this 20-song CD, including all of their Bell 45s and LP tracks (along with five previously unreleased cuts), is something for the serious O'Jays fan or serious '60s soul buff, rather than something on par with their famous '70s work. These are still respectable late-'60s uptown soul productions, sometimes strongly echoing Motown or the emerging Philly soul genre, and featuring strong counterpoint/trade-off harmonies. "I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)," a Top Ten R&B hit and their biggest Bell single, is the most memorable performance; two lower-charting R&B 45s, "Look Over Your Shoulder" and "The Choice," are also here. Yet it's interesting to hear them venture, if tentatively, into more sinister early sweet soul funk on "That's Alright," and mimic the harder-rocking Temptations sides on "Four for the Price of One" and "Don't You Know a True Love." If you want ultra-sweet soul that's almost sickly sweet, though, you can turn to "Going Going Gone," where they moan in ecstasy about strawberry ice cream chills -- quite literally -- up and down their backs.

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