The O'Jays

So Full of Love/Love Fever/Let Me Touch You

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This generous but curious two-disc set compiles three full-length O'Jays LPs, most notably 1977's Philadelphia International release So Full of Love. Both Love Fever and Let Me Touch You appeared a decade later, however, begging the question of just why Westside chose to compile this material into one package. It's nevertheless a real value for O'Jays fans, especially given the inconsistency of the material herein. So Full of Love marked the beginning of the group's shift away from the upbeat, tough-minded Philly soul of its classic Gamble/Huff hits toward the sweeter, more formally elegant sound that characterizes its releases of the late '70s and early '80s. The gorgeous "Use ta Be My Girl" proved a major hit, while the supple ballads "Brandy" and "Cry Together" herald the arrival of a soft-focus romanticism absent from the band's previous efforts. Still, it's difficult not to miss the lean, mean O'Jays of days past, who resurface only for the Bunny Sigler-composed "Strokety Stroke." Both Love Fever and Let Me Touch You have dated badly, suffering mightily from serious over-production (i.e., syrupy-sweet synthesizers and programmed drums) and weak material. Blame producer Reggie Griffin for Love Fever, although even Gamble and Huff are culpable via the patriotic treacle of "I Love America." Only a rare Walter Williams lead performance, "What Good Are These Arms of Mine," redeems this abysmal entry in the group's catalog. Let Me Touch You is marginally better, keeping the studio excesses to a relative minimum and marshaling better material, including the lovely ballad "I Just Want Somebody to Love Me" and the old-school Gamble/Huff entry "Lovin' You."

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