Made It Back - Repair Man - Imagination - Chauvinistic - Separate Ways -
Why You Wanna Settle For Less - Busy Tonight - Busy Tonight - One Good Woman -
I Would Rather Cry - The Christmas Song
This album is actually a LOT better than I expected. Their previous two outings on MCA and
The Right Stuff / PIR were essential, and so it was always going to be a hard act to follow.
Comparing this with their 1990s output generally, though, this is a strong O'Jays effort.
What has irked me from the start is the fact that there are only 10 tracks, plus one
Christmas song. We are not used to this now and so it comes as a bit of a shock.
Ballads are rather thin on the ground, but the midtempos more than make up for it in numbers.
There are 2 tracks on here that, to me are a complete waste of valuable CD time -
the nasty teeny R&B of "Repair Man" and the ghastly reggae flavoured "Busy Tonight".
I don't care much for the Christmas song either - the old Scrooge that I am - and on a
CD with a paltry 11 tracks that leaves us with only 8 songs. It's almost like the
good old vinyl days, folks!
The chaps do a sterling job, as always, with the vocals. I always consider that they
give a vintage performance and no-one could ask for more. What lets them down, I feel,
is what I hear as an understated production in some places. I would prefer to hear real
strings than some really cheap and cheesy style synths. Some tracks, although pleasant,
lack and real kick and one or two seem to last a whimsy too long and thus make the
track seem to plod sluggishly, which is a shame.
Track one is a pleasant opener whose piano / slap bass melody is more akin to
Rahsaan Patterson than anything else, but this is a typically stylish
and impressive outlet for Eddie, Walter and Eric to do their stuff. Track three
was gripping from word go with its Philly overtones, but although I love this
song there are two things that let it down: synthetic strings and it being a
shade too long a track at nearly 7 minutes. Harmonies are tight and spine
tingling, but something is lacking in the mix for me. This is just my opinion, though.
This is more than made up for by the KILLER stepper, "Imagination" which is an
unashamed Philly excursion with its melodic feet rooted into the sort of feel
woven into Lou Rawls' "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" and the use of
vibes and warm 70s fusion-style keyboards is just brilliant. The hook is catchy a
nd the bassline is irresistible. An essential song that will keep fans and steppers
happy throughout the Autumn and Christmas period. Definitely the highlight of the
album, and hats off to none other than Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for this.
Although they have lost their own particular unique sound they have a trained
ear for the Philly groove here. They also supply us with the ballad,
"Why You Wanna Settle For Less", and the chilled piano refrains do set
the scene for a very subtle yet gripping song. I think their contributions on here
are far superior to any of their more recent, wishy washy attempts and so that is welcome.
The following dancer, "Chauvinistic" is capable as a good stepper and is produced by
Eddie Levert, Sr and Walter Williams themselves, but again the indie sounding
synths detract somewhat. Troy Taylor has produced some nice, if not memorable
moments since the 1990s and this is a real exception. Catchy, and infectious, this
song will be played frequently at home and in the car.
I mention Rahsaan Patterson earlier and I suppose that Rob Fusari and Falonte Moore's
"One Good Woman" comes close to the feel of the man's latest "After Hours" set for Dome here
in the UK; the vocals ride along a solid mid 1980s groove and works very well indeed.