Sell My Soul/Too Hot to Sleep

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Newcomers expecting more of the Hi-NRG disco of Sylvester's most famous sides might be thrown by this compilation of the singer's final two albums for Fantasy Records. 1980's Sell My Soul dials down the tempos for a more low-key set similar in mood and sound to Donna Summer's Bad Girls; it is a sort of post-disco record that makes a point of recalling earlier styles, as on a delirious version of the torch song standard "Cry Me a River" and the outstanding title track, which has the dramatic tension and release of a classic early '70s Temptations side, albeit with a more propulsive beat. 1981's Too Hot to Sleep moves even further afield from Sylvester's pure disco image. The two-part "New Beginnings" opens and closes the album on a brief shimmer of overdubbed wordless vocals and lush piano glissandos, while "Too Hot to Sleep" itself features Sylvester singing in a lover-man baritone rather than his familiar falsetto, and a faithful version of Smokey Robinson's "Ooh Baby Baby" makes plain just how much the Motown auteur's own falsetto approach meant to Sylvester. Only the slinky "Give It Up (Don't Make Me Wait)" throbs with a disco pulse, and even it is a measured, restrained song with some jazzy saxophone solos and a Latin percussion base. Sylvester's final album for Fantasy, it remains an overlooked treasure for fans of '70s soul.

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