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Soul Express CD Review

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THE FUTURES: Ė Past Present and the Futures / The Greetings of Peace
UK Edsel / Philadelphia International Reissue CD
2 Original Albums on 1 CD
Past, Present and the Futures:
1) Party Time Man 2) Ainít No Time Fa Nothing 3) Deep Inside Of Me 4) Sunshine And You 5) Come To Me (When Your Loviní Is Down) 6) You Got It (The Love That I Need) 7) (Youíre The One) Someone Special 8) I Wanna Know: Is It Over?
The Greetings of Peace:
9) Victory 10) Iím So Proud Of You Woman 11) Peace 12) Why Must It End? 13) Silhouettes 14) Weíre Gonna Make It Somehow 15) Mr. Bojangles 16) Feels Just Like The First Time
Bonus track:
17) In Answer To Your Question

Of the whole string of strong PIR reissues by first Westside and now Edsel, I regard this CD as the most precious one, especially as both these albums have been sought-after rarities for years. In a Soul Brother album catalogue, The Greetings of Peace was priced at 25 GBP, and Past, Present & the Futures at 35 GBP. While the high prices asked for soul albums do not always reflect their musical value, this time the albums are really worth hunting. Now that they are both available on a 2 on 1 CD - and priced lower than a normal full-priced CD - I could simply end this review by stating that "get it while you can"!

The Futures' PIR recordings never reached any substantial commercial success, and thus the group were lesser known artists in the PIR repertoire. There's a detailed history of the group in the CD leaflet and so there's no reason to copy it here. However, I'd like to point out that while the Futures performed classic Philly soul on these albums, their style as a soul vocal group was much closer to Temptations than any famous PIR group. This impression is underscored by the fact that the Futures used different lead singers on different tracks, ranging from a high-pitched falsetto (in the Eddie Kendricks - Damon Harris mould) to a bass vocalist, who also coloured the background harmonies with his wonderful Melvin Franklin-type lines.

At the time of their PIR years, The Futures comprised of James and Jon King, Harry McGilberry (later to join The Temptations), Kenny Crew and Frank Washington. Their first PIR album opens with the single release Party Time Man which is a classy uptempo dance soul tune with a typical PIR arrangement mixed with the Futures' enjoyable, colourful vocalising. I really cannot imagine even O'Jays surpassing this interpretation, especially when the group utilises the bass vocalist to good effect. A wonderful party tune.

Even better is, though, the following cut Ain't No Time Fa Nothing, a true soul anthem and a cult favourite on the UK soul scene. It's written and produced by Joseph Jefferson and Charles Simmons, being an absolutely brilliant, percussive mid-tempo mover with magical horn and string lines. Still, the splendid vocal parts manage to steal the show, again using the whole vocal spectrum the group has to offer in a truly delicious way. Both the musical instrumentation and the vocal performance are so blissful I have no superlatives strong enough to praise the track!

The good news is that the worthwhile moments do not end with these two single releases. Of the ballads, Deep Inside of Me and Come to Me are tasteful falsetto-led soarers strongly reminding me of the Temptations, while the closing cut I Wanna Know; Is It Over? is a deep, traditional slow ballad tune starting with a monologue, then throwing some Temptations-type harmonies and finally revealing the extremely powerful, throaty lead vocals full of bitter emotions described in the lyrics. Then the falsetto singer comes in the spotlight, and the finale moments feature terrific preaching by the tenor vocalist.

The melodious hand-clapper You Got It (The Love That I Need) is clearly influenced by the mid-60s Temptations classics, while Someone Special and Sunshine and You are effortlessly flowing singalong tunes.
Rating: (10/10)

The group's second PIR album The Greetings of Peace was significantly less essential, and as James King later described, lacked any direction. The album contained two peculiar cover songs; the Rays' 1957 doo-wop hit Silhouettes and the appalling Jerry Jeff Walker-Sammy Davis-Neil Diamond favourite Mr. Bojangles.

Still, the album had numerous brighter moments, including the typically classy Gamble & Huff upbeat movers Victory, I'm So Proud of You Woman and We're Gonna Make It Somehow, whereas Peace is a rather unusual uptempo creeper with a social conscious message and touch of jazz - sounding like a cross between a typical O'Jays and Billy Paul tune.

There were only two ballads on offer, of which the Frankie Smith-William Bloom song Feels Just Like the First Time is rather poppy, but the Cynthia Biggs-Ted Wortham collaboration Why Must It End? is a worthier effort. As a bonus track, we get a still much more impressive ballad tune titled In Answer to Your Question, which again shows distinct Temptations influences in its vocal arrangement.
Rating: (7/10)
-Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

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