required listening

CD Reviews

WHISPERS  -  One For The Money + Open Up Your Love + Headlights

Robinsongs (UK) ROBIN 32 CDD (2cd)

ONE FOR THE MONEY... One For The Money; Living Together (In Sin); Put Me On The News; You’re Only As Good As You Think You Are (+ 7” version); Sounds Like A Love Song (+ 7” version); Got A Feeling; In My Heart; OPEN UP YOUR LOVE... Make It With You; Chocolate Girl; Love Is A Dream; Open Up Your Love; I Fell In Love Last Night (At The Disco); You Are Number One; You Never Miss Your Water (‘Til Your Well Runs Dry); I’m Gonna Make You My Wife; HEADLIGHTS... Headlights; (Olivia) Lost And Turned Out; (Let’s Go) All The Way; (You’e A) Special Part Of My Life; The Planets Of Life; Try And Make It Better; Disco Melody; Children Of Tomorrow

WHISPERS  -  Whisper In Your Ear + The Whispers + Imagination

Robinsongs (UK) ROBIN 33 CDD (2cd)

WHISPER IN YOUR EAR... Homemade Lovin’; Jump For Joy; If I Don’t Get Your Love; Whisper In Your Ear; Love At Its Best; Can’t Do Without Love (+ 7” version); Pretty Lady; You’ll Never Get Away; THE WHISPERS... A Song For Donny (+ inst.); My Girl; Lady; Can You Do The Boogie (+ 7” version); And The Beat Goes On (+ 7” version); I Love You; Out The Box; Welcome Into My Dream: IMAGINATION... Imagination; It’s A Love Thing (+ 7” version); Say You (Would Love For Me Too); Continental Shuffle; I Can Make It Better (+ 7” version); Girl I Need You; Up On Soul Train; Fantasy

Over two sets and four cds, the little silver discs on offer here represent the first product by the Whispers on joining Soul Train in 1975 after three years at Janus.  Over this new period, Soul Train - named after Don Cornelius’ famed TV show - would, with the bowing-out of the host himself, morph into Solar Records under the sole control of previous partner, Dick Griffey.  Mostly, production would be handled jointly by Griffey and the Whispers themselves but, for the ‘One For The Money’ debut, the Philly team of the Norman Harris-led Harris Machine took the helm, getting off to a fine start on 45 with the album’s title track, peaking at #10 r&b ‘Billboard’ and #15 ‘Cashbox’.  A typical Philly dancer, it is joined on the set with ‘Put Me In The News’ and ‘Got A Feeling’ but, whilst the group is nothing if not versatile, it’s the ballads that most impress and there’s no shortage here, with particular commendation going to ‘Living Together (In Sin)’ - #21 ‘Billboard’, #20 ‘Cashbox’ - and the 6:55 closer, ‘In My Heart’.  The ‘Open Up Your Love’ album kicks off with an uptempo take on David Gates’ ‘Make It With You’ which, although taking away some of the poignancy of the lyrics, works remarkably well.  Punters seemed to like it too, taking it (on 45) to #10 r&b ‘Billboard’ and #6 ‘Cashbox’.  The Don Cornelius-penned ‘You Never Miss Your Water (‘Till Your Well Runs Dry)’ makes for a jazzy swinger, while the ‘Open Up Your Love’ title track is a dramatic item and ‘I’m Gonna Make You My Wife’ is an appealing beat-ballad.  Only ‘I Fell In Love Last Night (At The Disco)’ rather lets the side down.  Album number three, ‘Headlights’, saw the label-change to Solar and a lengthy - some might say, overstretched - remake of their 1970 Soul Clock outing, ‘Planets Of Life’.  A more preferable dance track comes by way of ‘(Let’s Go) All The Way’, yet another ‘Billboard’ r&b #10 peaker, while a pair of stunners comes by way of the easy-floater, ‘(Olivia) Lost And Found’ and the gentle ‘(You’re A) Special Part Of My Life’.

The Whispers‘ Soul Train/Solar era recordings continue with the second Robinsongs offering this time, although between ‘Whisper In Your Ear’ and ‘The Whispers‘ is a missing album, viz ‘Happy Holidays To You’.  If, like me, you are no fan of specific Christmas songs, again like me you will be perfectly happy with this omission.  So, first to ‘Whisper In Your Ear‘ and a slight hiatus for the guys in that it yielded only two comparatively minor singles hits in ‘Can’t Do Without Love‘ and ‘Homemade Lovin’, neither being particularly distinguished, despite the former being a songwriting collaboration between Curtis Mayfield and Keni Burke.  In fact, the whole set is below par for a Whispers‘ outing, only the Ken Hirsch/Kathy Wakefield ballad, ‘Love At Its Best‘ being a truly redeeming factor.  On the other hand, the eponymous ‘The Whispers‘ was a real return to form and with ‘And The Beat Goes On‘ heralding what, for the group, would announce ‘The Solar Sound’.  #1 r&b with both ‘Billboard‘ and ‘Cashbox’, it crossed the pond to hit #2 UK pop (and scored again here when reissued in 2007).  Its chart progress was preceded by the beautiful ‘A Song For Donny’, a tribute to Donny Hathaway as the song paired the music of Hathaway’s ‘This Christmas‘ with original lyrics by fellow Solar artist, Carrie Lucas - aka Mrs Dick Griffey.  Liking or disliking the group’s treatment of the Temptations‘ ‘My Girl‘ will no doubt be down to one’s personal taste but there’s surely no disputing the worth of ‘Lady’, a gently swaying, finger-clickin‘ beat-ballad.  ‘Out The Box‘ makes for an infectious dancer and the whole closes with ‘Welcome Into My Dream’, another ballad beauty.  ‘It’s A Love Thing‘ kept that ‘Solar Sound‘ going on the ‘Imagination‘ set but this time it stalled at the #2 spot with both ‘Billboard‘ and ‘Cashbox‘ and making it to #9 UK pop.  ‘I Can Make It Better‘ was a paler imitation, although kept the flag flying moderately well but it’s the ballads, ‘Say You (Would Love For Me Too)’, ‘Girl I Need You‘ and ‘Fantasy‘ that are the standouts.

review posted 25/7/18