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Teddy Pendergrass: Live! Coast to Coast (2-LP 1979)

Classic soul album CD review

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US Philadelphia International 36294, 1979
CD reissue by US Capitol / UK Edsel
1) Life Is A Song Worth Singing 2) Only You 3) Medley 4) When Some Body Loves You Back 5) Get Up Get Down Get Funky Get Loose 6) LA Rap 7) Come Go With Me 8) Close The Door 9) Turn Off The Lights 10) Do Me 11) Interview 12) Where Did All The Lovin' Go 13) It's You I Love 14) Shout And Scream

Produced by Gamble & Huff; Gene McFadden, John Whitehead & Jerry Cohen

Sides one and two on Teddy’s live set were recorded on home turf in Philadelphia and side three in Los Angeles. The location doesn’t really make any difference, because to these ears this is a quite lacklustre album. I guess this would be the proper time to confess that I’m one of those people who have never particularly enjoyed live recordings in soul music. Nothing wrong with live performances, mind you, but somehow the magic created in situ rarely makes it to the record. I like live jazz and funk recordings much better, so apparently that means I appreciate the instrumental jamming and soloing most in a live situation.

Here the sound quality is poor, and the Teddy Bear Orchestra, headed by Samuel Reed and made up of local musicians, sounds like adequate background support, and nothing more. It would seem that Teddy wanted nothing to undermine his position as the one and only star of the show and focus of attention. An understandable tactic, but in this case it doesn’t make for particularly inspiring listening. The funky tracks are monotonous and boring, and while the ballad favourites are delivered in a convincing enough manner, there’s not one truly in-depth exploration of any particular tune. You know, the kind that would actually surpass the studio version.

The medley of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes hits is rushed through in the typically annoying manner that I guess is designed so all the morons in the audience can whistle along to the melody. To conclude this personal theme of “What aspects of live recordings I hate the most”, here we also have members of the audience joining the artist onstage to sing for a while. What bliss.

Side D features three new studio cuts along with excerpts of a radio interview with Teddy. The first single Shout and Scream is musically as interesting as you can surmise from the title, and while Teddy sings Where Did All the Lovin’ Go in a decidedly rough and impressive fashion, musically this McFadden-Whitehead-Cohen disco-funk loper sounds like a routine effort. By far the best of these tracks is It’s You I Love, a pleasant enough laid-back mid-ballad vigorously interpreted by Teddy. The short interview excerpts feature Mimi Brown demonstrating razor-sharp journalistic wit while inquiring about such all-important subjects as Teddy’s “sign” and how he likes his eggs. Move over Woodward & Bernstein!

Recommendable only if you want a complete Pendergrass collection.

- Petteri Ruotsalainen

Teddy Pendegrass Album Discography
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