Various Artists

Slow Jams: The 70's, Vol. 1

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"If the '60s were the decade in which R&B music spawned a whole catalog of 'slow jams,' the '70s refined the genre," writes annotator David Nathan. "Still emphasizing a romantic theme, artists recording in the period were apt to be a touch more sexual." They also tended to go on at greater length. The "slow jams" (i.e., rhythmic ballads by R&B acts) included on the first volume of reissue label The Right Stuff's series of '70s collections (there are also "timeless" and '60s series) tend to stretch out from the versions that may be more familiar to radio listeners. Nine of the ten tracks were pop and R&B Top 40 hits, four of them gold records in their single versions. But by the '70s it wasn't unusual for the album version of a song to be longer, and such tunes as Heatwave's "Always and Forever" and Teddy Pendergrass' "Close the Door" take significantly more time to make their romantic points. The '70s also introduced the phenomenon of the 12" dance single, and the Floaters make extensive use of the form here; their sole big hit, "Float On," which ran four minutes and 13 seconds on the 7" version, clocked in at just under 12 minutes. The series is notable for its extensive licensing; almost none of these tracks originated on the labels of The Right Stuff's corporate parent, EMI. It is also notable for a willingness to include LP-only tracks that fit the concept, in this case choosing only one, Al Green's six-and-a-half-minute cover of Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times," a worthy discovery salvaged from Green's 1972 I'm Still in Love With You album. The Slow Jams collections are mood-setting records, and this one starts off the decade well.

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