required listening

CD Review

UNDISPUTED TRUTH  -  Cosmic Truth + Higher Than High

Kent Soul (UK) CDTOP2 483 (2cd)

COSMIC TRUTH... Earthquake Shake; Down By The River; UFO’s; Lil’ Red Riding Hood; Squeeze Me Tease Me; Spaced Out; Got To Get My Hands On Some Lovin’; 1990; (I Know) I’m Losing You; HIGHER THAN HIGH... Higher Than High; Poontang; Life Ain’t So Easy; Boogie Bump Boogie; Help Yourself (2nd version); I’m In The Red Zone; Overlord; I Saw You When You Met Her; Ma

By 1975, the year that Motown issued Undisputed Truth’s fifth and sixth - and last! - albums for its Gordy label subsidiary , only Joe Harris remained from the original line-up, he having been joined by former members of the Magictones, including female member, Virginia ‘Vee’ McDonald.  The group’s image also changed to befit the over-egging of the psyche-soul pudding by producer, Norman Whitfield - thus ultimately ‘graduating’ into the huge, wild, white afro wigs and the stupid make-up.  In similar fashion as the fate which befell the Temptations on their Whitfield-produced ‘Masterpiece‘ album two years earlier, Undisputed Truth would become little more than puppets to Whitfield’s over-the-top musical excesses and never more so than on ‘Cosmic High’, the first of the two sets here.  Sound effects, throw-away funk and more rock than soul arrangements abound, the already known vocal abilities of the group members usually being wasted on ill-conceived ditties.  The song, ‘(I Know) I’m Losing You’, may have had a pedigree but, in getting a near seven-minute workover, may have had some nice jazzy instrumental touches in places but there are also harsh guitar invasions and only second-place status for the group itself.  ‘Cosmic Truth’’s other elongated track (at 6:33) is the only non-Whitfield composition, viz Neil Young’s ‘Down By The River‘ and at least gives us some relatively melodic respite, whereas the second Temptations‘ outing, ‘1990’, was never really a great opus.  ‘UFO’s‘ might have provided the group with a minor US r&b hit but it is extremely derivative and merely demonstrates that the glory days of Motown had been left way behind.  ‘Higher Than High’, though (even) less successful an album than its predecessor, does however offer us more listenable moments than had gone before, even the upbeat and forceful title track having some sort of irresistible nature.  Sadly, for every ‘Higher Than High’, however, there’s a low point, in particular ‘Poontang’, with lyrics such that one can only assume the company’s Quality Control department had long been disbanded.  Redemption comes with such items as ‘I Saw You When You Met Her’ and ‘Life Ain’t So Easy’, both dark and moody pieces and, especially in the latter case, lyrically well above average when set against the rest of the album while, in typical Whitfield fashion of not being able to leave things alone, the group get to remake their 1974 outing, ‘Help Yourself‘ and makeover ‘Ma’, a song he had previously cut on both Rare Earth and the Temptations.  In neither case is there any improvement on earlier versions.  In realising this set has been labelled ‘required listening’, in this instance the requirement is not to dwell on Undisputed Truth’s earlier four albums and think “Ooh good” but instead the requirement is definitely to listen - or, if already in possession of the original vinyl - re-listen before commitment.

review posted 16/3/19