When The Temptations departed Berry Gordy’s historic Motown label in 1977, the Motown roster was in the midst of dramatic change. The Tempts followed in the footsteps of their onetime labelmates like The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Spinners and even The Jackson 5, all of whom had departed Motown. The Tempts – Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Richard Street, Glenn Leonard and newest recruit Louis Price – signed to R&B powerhouse label Atlantic, where they remained for two albums collected on one CD from Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint – Hear to Tempt You (1977) and Bare Back (1978).
Hear to Tempt You should have been a match made in soul Heaven, for it paired the great vocal group with three of the hottest musician-producers out of Philadelphia – Ronnie Baker, Norman Harris and Earl Young. B-H-Y had helped shape The Sound of Philadelphia for Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International label before defecting to Salsoul and creating some of the greatest, most soulful disco records of all time. At Atlantic, B-H-Y graced records by Blue Magic and The Trampps (of which drummer/vocalist Earl Young was a member), among others. For The Temptations, B-H-Y provided nine original songs, working with their frequent collaborators T.G. Conway, Allan Felder and (future Temptation) Ron Tyson. Tracks were laid down at Philly’s Sigma Sound with the A-team including Harris, Bobby Eli and T.J. Tindall on guitar, Ron Kersey on keyboards, Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman on bass, Young and Keith Benson on drums, Larry Washington on congas and Don Renaldo with his Horns and Strings. The vocals for Hear to Tempt You were laid down in Atlantic’s New York studios, which might have been a sign; Glenn Leonard tells Kevin Goins in his exceptional essay that “It was clear that Atlantic really didn’t know what to with us once we were signed…the chemistry just wasn’t there with [B-H-Y].” Despite showcasing those familiar Temptations harmonies on sweet, lush soul grooves – both uptempo dancers (“Think for Yourself,” “Read Between the Lines”) and inimitable Philly ballads (“Let’s Live in Peace,” “I Could Never Stop Loving You” – that compared favorably to B-H-Y’s other hit production work of the era, the LP only reached a peak of No. 38 on the R&B Top 40 Albums Chart, and No. 113 on the Top 200.
We have more after the jump including the complete track listing and order links!
Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that The Temptations turned back to Detroit, if not to Motown (yet). For the provocatively-titled Bare Back, the group turned to Brian and Eddie Holland, two-thirds of another famous threesome: Holland-Dozier-Holland. Recorded in Los Angeles with arrangers Paul Riser and McKinley Jackson as well as the group credited as The Holland Rhythm Section, The Temptations’ sophomore Atlantic LP had a more driving and funky sound, as established early on with the opening “Mystic Woman (Love Me Over)” and “I Just Don’t Know How to Let You Go.” Richard Street’s vocals were emphasized a bit more on Bare Back, though the Hollands intuitively knew which lead singer to place on which song as well as how to blend those stunning Temptations harmonies. Despite some steamy lyrics, nothing on the album was as provocative as the artwork on its back cover featuring topless Temptations (though Glenn Leonard asserts, “No, we were not naked!”) and Bare Back failed to improve on the performance of its predecessor. It reached No. 46 R&B and didn’t chart on the pop survey.
Perhaps The Tempts’ return to Motown was inevitable. Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson welcomed them back to the fold, though on the condition that Dennis Edwards return to the group; that meant the departure of Louis Price. Glenn Leonard remained with the group for a few years longer, including the 1981 Thom Bell collaboration The Temptations and the highly-publicized 1982 Reunion with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks rejoining the group.
SoulMusic’s release of Hear to Tempt You/Bare Back marks the first time these albums have been available on CD outside of Japan. In addition to Kevin Goins’ liner notes in the 20-page booklet, the disc has been remastered by Alan Wilson. You can order this title below!
- Think for Yourself
- In a Lifetime
- Can We Come and Share in Love
- She’s All I’ve Got
- Snake in the Grass
- It’s Time for Love
- Let’s Live in Peace
- Read Between the Lines
- I Could Never Stop Loving You
- Mystic Woman (Love Me Over)
- I Just Don’t Know How to Let You Go
- That’s When You Need Love
- Bare Back
- Ever Ready Love
- Wake Up to Me
- You’re So Easy to Love
- I See My Child
- Touch Me Again
Tracks 1-9 from Hear to Tempt You, Atlantic LP SD-19143, 1977
Tracks 1-18 from Bare Back, Atlantic LP SD-19188, 1978