// Album Recommendation

The Temptations

Still Here

(2010)

"Listen up, listen up, listen up!
I got something to say
Listen up, listen up, listen up!
There's a better way."

Still Here by The Temptations

As stated by the album title Still Here, and the 2004 Legacy album track Still Tempting (a nod to 1965’s Temptin’ Temptations), the legendary Soul group The Temptations are still very much around. Or are they? The only singer of the original, classic Motown line-up (1963-1968), who is still a member of The Temptations, is Otis Williams. The remaining members are Ron Tyson (since 1983), Terry Weeks (since 1997), Joe Herndon (since 2003), and Bruce Williamson (since 2007). That alone would be enough for some long-time fans to claim that this incarnation isn’t really The Temptations. But would that be a fair assessment? The fact remains that a long line of singers have joined and left the group over the years. Original members David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, who to many fans constitute The Temptations, left the group as far back as 1968 and 1975, respectively. Yet The Temptations have persevered successfully with various line-ups since then. A big part of the reason why they weren’t significantly affected by the departures of certain members is because The Temptations rarely wrote or produced their own material and thus never lost any irreplaceable songwriters. To their credit, they’ve always had a knack for teaming up with talented songwriters and producers (Holland/Dozier/Holland, Norman Whitfield, Smokey Robinson, etc.), showing a willingness to evolve with the times, all the way from '60s Soul/Pop and '70s Psychedelic Soul to '80s Disco and contemporary R&B.

Still Here is The Temptations' 49th album, and it's their strongest effort in years, showcasing all of the distinct qualities that every long-time fan has come to love about the group’s sound and style: soulful lead vocals, captivating five-part harmonies, and solid songwriting. The immaculate production is contemporary, but Still Here features some of The Temptations’ most reflective and nostalgic songs in years. Fans of their late '60s/early '70s socio-political/Psychedelic Soul should appreciate Change Has Come (a sort of sequel to Sam Cooke’s African-American civil rights classic A Change Is Gonna Come; also recorded by soul legend Otis Redding), a gritty, passionate tribute to the exciting election of President Barack Obama with a rousing vocal performance by Bruce Williamson. The politically charged Listen Up is a modern update of Ball Of Confusion (off 1972’s All Directions album) and should also appeal to fans of the same time-period. Soul Music is even more nostalgic, a tribute to not only The Temptations' early days but to all of the timeless vintage Soul Music and artists that Soul fans around the world associate with Motown Records (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Jackson Five, etc.), Stax Records (Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, etc.), Muscle Shoals (Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, etc.), and Philly International (The O’Jays, Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass).

The nostalgic sentiments may have been brought on by their up-coming 50th anniversary, or the Soul Music revival termed Nu-Soul/Neo-Soul, which celebrates vintage Soul Music (e.g. Maxwell, Alicia Keys). Or the fact that Otis Williams, original member and spokesperson for the group, has received many compliments on a regular basis from much younger record buyers concerning the group’s old music. Around the time of the release of Still Here, he told this story in an interview: “The amazing thing about younger people, people in their late teens, early 20s…I was in L.A. a while ago, walking down the street, and these two young guys stopped me and said, "Mr. Williams, we don't mean to bother you, but we know who you are, and we just want to say that you guys made better music than what we have today." Going Back Home is yet another nostalgic song about reaching a point in your life, where you feel a need to re-connect with the past, and the people you grew up with. Still Here is not all about nostalgia, though. As always, The Temptations deliver several romantic ballads like Woman (“The greatest thing to ever happen to a man is a woman”), Hold Me (with an intro inspired by the late, great Barry White), Warm Summer Nights (sounds like a smooth, early '80s track wrapped in a contemporary production) and One Of A Kind Lady, a mid-tempo track (augmented by subtle brass reminiscent of Papa Was A Rolling Stone off 1972’s All Directions). Still Here is a much more satisfying late-career release than any long-time fan had any reason to expect (much like Earth, Wind & Fire’s 2004 album Illumination). The Temptations are icons, a legendary institution, members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, winners of Motown's first Grammy Award, and they remain one of the most beloved Soul groups of all time.

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