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Teddy Pendergrass: Teddy (1979)

Classic soul album CD review

Buy the CD reissue from our CD Shop

US Philadelphia International 36003, 1979
CD reissue by US Right Stuff / UK Edsel
1) Come Go with Me 2) Turn off the Lights 3) I'll Never See Heaven Again 4) All I Need Is You 5) If You Know Like I Know 6) Do Me 7) Set Me Free 8) Life Is a Circle

Produced by Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff; Thom Bell; John Whitehead & Gene McFadden; Sherman Marshall

Turn off the Lights continued in the footsteps of Close the Door and reached # 2 on the R&B charts. This is really the ultimate bedroom ballad: a lush arrangement with lots of strings, erotic lyrics (”let’s take a shower together, I’ll wash your body, you wash mine, rub me down in some hot oils baby” etc) and unbelievably ecstatic vocals from Teddy, who seems to be on the verge of exploding with emotion. A classic soul ballad.

The opening cut Come Go With Me is another Gamble & Huff penned mating call, and it did reasonably well on the R&B single charts, as well (number 14). It is apparently a Pendergrass favourite among black music fans, judging by the fact that it has even been sampled on rap records. I like the swaying rhythm, and the serene arrangement is stylish despite its MOR leanings, but to tell you the truth, the lengthy dialogue at the end of the song with Teddy singing his stuff and his object of desire delivering her trite spoken lines tends to bore me, no matter how well Teddy sings.

Some of the uptempo tracks reveal the influence of the year 1979, which was the culmination of mindless disco music. The McFadden & Whitehead contribution If You Know Like I Know is an aggressive disco-funk plodder with prominent bass plucking, and Do Me sounds hectic and repetitive despite the fact that the arrangement features nice details, and Teddy sings it energetically. Life Is a Circle is melodically a cut above these, and before the end there’s a nice bit which combines a flute solo, percussion and Teddy’s rough vocals, but the rhythm is still far too fast-paced for my tastes. The standout cut on side B is definitely the majestic Thom Bell production / arrangement Set Me Free, Written by LeRoy Bell (Thom’s nephew) and Casey James, who themselves recorded in the late 70s as Bell & James, the tune forsakes the bland disco sounds of the day in favour of a more typical Philly production.

Not a perfect album, but if you are a serious soul fan, you need to have the ballads.

By now Teddy had a garage full of fancy cars and his own jet and he was selling out arenas like Madison Square Garden. Around this time, he was also asked to play Otis Redding in a biopic, but eventually turned the role down.

- Petteri Ruotsalainen

Teddy Pendegrass Album Discography
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