3D Great Rock Bible
The Temptations iTunes Tracks The Temptations Official Website

The Temptations

Numbering 5 to the FOUR TOPS’ 4, The MIRACLES’ 6 (-2!), The SUPREMES’ 3 and The ISLEY BROTHERS’ 3 (+ er… 3), The TEMPTATIONS were yet another 60s soul/R&B outfit to roll off the conveyor belt of Detroit, Michigan’s Tamla/Motown/Gordy’s hit-making production line: `My Girl’, `Get Ready’, `Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’, `Beauty Is Only Skin Deep’, `(I Know) I’m Losing You’, `You’re My Everything’ and `I Wish It Would Rain’, classics prior to their innovative notion to get even higher on the psychedelic soul of `Cloud Nine’. Ditto `Runaway Child (Running Wild)’ and `I Can’t Get Next To You’. Despite being dogged by numerous personnel changes over their lengthy career, their smooth combination of leads and harmonies secured them everlasting adoration from fans worldwide, who also bought into early-70s million-sellers `Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)’, `Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)’ and `Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’.
Initially formed late in 1960, the group were a merger of two vocal outfits: The Distants (Otis Williams, Elbridge “Al” Bryant and Mervin Franklin) and Birmingham, Alabama’s The Primes (Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams). As The DISTANTS, bass vocalist Mervin had replaced Arthur Walton, while Otis and Al, plus James “Pee-Wee” Crawford and lead Richard Street (the latter preferred over Bernard Plain), issued their debut sides (`Come On’, b/w `Always’) for Northern Records; re-issued by Warwick in May ’60. Prior to the `All Right’ platter, Albert “Mooch” Harrell filled in for Pee-Wee, although it looked to be the end of the beginning when Richard Street and The Distants (in a new line-up) duly delivered `Answer Me’ for Harmon Records.
Looking to get back on track, Otis, Al and Mervin founded The Elgins, with the aforesaid Eddie (on lead) and Paul, although a change of name to The TEMPTATIONS came about as they inked a deal at Berry Gordy, Jr.’s Miracle Records off-shoot for `Oh, Mother Of Mine’ and `Check Yourself’. Moving along Berry’s aspiring corridor to Gordy Records, `Dream Come True’, `Paradise’, `I Want A Love I Can See’ and `May I Have This Dance’ found their way out between 1962 and ’63.
Subsequently switching Bryant for David Ruffin, The TEMPTATIONS had their first major hit in March ‘64 with `The Way You Do The Things You Do’. Pursued by an album, MEET THE TEMPTATIONS (1964) {*6} and Top 40 breakers, `I’ll Be In Trouble’ and `Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)’, the quintet were making inroads into the hearts and minds of the burgeoning soul scene. By early ‘65, the stirring `My Girl’ had given them their inaugural chart-topper, a classic ballad penned by SMOKEY ROBINSON, who dominated most of their songwriting during this period, as witnessed on THE TEMPTATIONS SING SMOKEY (1965) {*7}. An incredible run of hits followed, namely the attendant `It’s Growing’, plus `Since I Lost My Baby’ and `My Baby’ (from TEMPTIN’ TEMPTATIONS (1965) {*7}.
Though the act were “manufactured” to a certain degree, the quintet possessed an impressive three-pronged vocal attack in David Ruffin’s gravel-flecked rasp, Eddie Kendricks’ high tenor and Paul Williams’ heavy baritone. But it was Ruffin’s lead vocals which were pushed to the fore as producer Norman Whitfield began to manoeuvre their sound in a grittier direction; `Get Ready’ and `Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’ (from GETTIN’ READY (1966) {*7}),
an early example of what was to come. The exclusive Top 3 smash, `Beauty Is Only Skin Deep’; although featuring on the TEMPTATIONS LIVE! (1967) {*6} LP, was another to shine out, while Top 10-ers `(I Know) I’m Losing You’ (from the previous fall), `All I Need’, `You’re My Everything’ and `(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need’, showcased a similarly-successful WITH A LOT O’ SOUL (1967) {*7}.
Toward the end of ’67, while flower-power, HENDRIX and OTIS REDDING were moving in other directions, Gordy (with producers Frank Wilson and Jeffrey Bowen) decided to shape The TEMPTATIONS: IN A MELLOW MOOD {*4}; somewhat reminiscent of what he’d attempted with “The Supremes Sing Rodgers & Hart”. From easy-listening nostalgia cues `That’s Life’, `Ol’ Man River’, `A Taste Of Honey’, etc., to a safe reinterpretation of a Motown hit from STEVIE WONDER (`For Once In My Life’), it sat uneasily in their period of transition.
After the title track from WISH IT WOULD RAIN (1968) {*6} sealed a Top 10 place, Ruffin became increasingly envious of the way DIANA ROSS was being nurtured for solo stardom by Motown. Things came to a head when the man failed to show for a gig. The group duly sent him packing on the back of two further modest hits, `I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)’ and `Please Return Your Love To Me’; recruiting Dennis Edwards (ex-CONTOURS) prior to again breaking the Top 10 with `Cloud Nine’ and `Runaway Child, Running Wild’. These tasty tracks and parent set, CLOUD NINE (1969) {*7}, hitched a ride on the magic roundabout of psychedelic soul, already pioneered by SLY STONE’s thrilling honky hybrids. This period also provided fans with LIVE AT THE COPA (1968) {*5} – their concert at the Copacabana in NYC – and a nice run of singles and sets with label mates, DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES, notably `I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’, `I’ll Try Something New’ and a cover of The BAND’s `The Weight’.
With producer Norman Whitfield and his writing partner Barrett Strong continuing to pen most of the group’s material, and on top of their tree on the euphoric TV Special, THE TEMPTATIONS SHOW (1969) {*6}, the socially-conscious PUZZLE PEOPLE (1969) {*7} transfixed an American public about to be swept up by the Blaxploitation movie exploits. Opened by the group’s second No.1, `I Can’t Get Next To You’ and padded by the Top 20, `Don’t Let The Joneses Get You Down’, there was also room on board for a hard-hitting `Slave’, plus three inconsequential readings of The BEATLES’ `Hey Jude’, Bobby Russell’s `Little Green Apples’ and The ISLEY BROTHERS’ recent mover `It’s Your Thing’.
The Top 10 title track from the similarly-feted PSYCHEDELIC SHACK (1970) {*8}, proved beyond a funky doubt that The TEMPTATIONS could rival any SLY STONE, CURTIS MAYFIELD, FUNKADELIC/PARLIAMENT wig-out, whereas the album itself etched out some cosmic-cool vibes in `Take A Stroll Through Your Mind’ and `Friendship Train’ (16 minutes in total), next to the political earth-ing of `War’ (soon-to-be a chart-topper for label mate EDWIN STARR). Pity then that one of their best cuts ever, the Top 3 `Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)’ was aimed to carry some weight on a “Greatest Hits II” LP.
Despite the exploitative aspects of LIVE AT LONDON’S TALK OF THE TOWN (1970) {*6} – a double! – and the festive CHRISTMAS CARD (1970) {*4}, The TEMPTATIONS were still on “cloud nine” by 1971’s SKY’S THE LIMIT {*6}. Starring Kendricks in his swansong role, as arguments accrued during a concert, the chart-scaling `Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)’ followed one of the combo’s least fruitful singles, `Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite The World)’. The longest track on board (beating off the closing 9 minutes of `Love Can Be Anything (Can’t Nothing Be Love But Love)’), the often overlooked `Smiling Faces Sometimes’, gave Barrett-Strong another immediate success when The UNDISPUTED TRUTH scratched out a Top 3 smash.
Paul Williams left later the same year after `It’s Summer’ stalled outside the Top 50; their first to do so in several years as a hit machine. Written as a riposte to KENDRICKS’ and RUFFIN’s criticisms of the fabric and fibre of the 5-piece, the Top 20 `Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)’, addressed some of these issues for the Tamla team; falsetto Damon Harris and former DISTANTS lead Richard Street were now fixtures and fittings as they reeled off another reasonably respected and positively positioned hit, `Take A Look Around’. Spawned from SOLID ROCK (1972) {*6}, maybe on reflection, edited renditions of `Stop The War Now’ (at 12 minutes) and BILL WITHERS’ `Ain’t No Sunshine’ (at 7!), might’ve prevailed if a tad shorter.
Their funky psychedelic soul getting dirtier and nastier with the hard-bitten tale of a broken home, `Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’ – their classic fourth and final #1 and from 1972’s ALL DIRECTIONS {*8} – Whitfield & Strong’s contributions had been substantially preened to just `Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On’ and the unedited 11-minutes of `Papa…’; all five members took turns on lead vox for other highlights from ASHFORD & SIMPSON’s `Love Woke Me Up This Morning’ and ISAAC HAYES’ `Do Your Thing’ to EWAN MacCOLL’s `The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face)’.
Containing the full 13 minutes of their Top 10 title track triumph, MASTERPIECE (1973) {*7} was another ambitious widescreen attempt by Whitfield (now without lyricist Strong) to extend their worth within the psychedelic soul community, albeit heavy on the cliché and even heavier on the “horchestra” horns. Bolstered by Top 40 cues `Plastic Man’ (b/w `Hurry Tomorrow’) and `Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)’ (b/w `Ma’), the FUNK BROTHERS were also peerless in their assistance to keep the genre ticking over.
Overshadowed by the tragic suicide of former member Paul Williams on August 17, 1973, The TEMPTATIONS’ kaleidoscopic and indeed futuristic approach was apparent on 1990 (1973) {*6}. Not quite 17 years ahead of its time, but certainly an album with a few years to spare (either way), producer Whitfield teamed up The FUNK BROTHERS with the ROSE ROYCE aggregation to furnish the group with three further Top 75 hits: `Let Your Hair Down’, `Heavenly’ and `You’ve Got My Soul On Fire’. But had the date for psychedelic soul expired? You betcha!
Without overseer Whitfield to lavish his production (and writing) prowess on the outfit, The TEMPTATIONS stamped their authority on the funk-laden grooves of 1975’s A SONG FOR YOU {*6}; the title spun from the attendant ballad scribed by LEON RUSSELL. Dennis Edwards taking most of the leads, knob-twiddler Jeffrey Bowen and associate Gordy extended their hand of friendship to the COMMODORES and their talented frontman LIONEL RICHIE, in order to augment opening hit number, `Happy People’; other Top 40 breakers, `Shakey Ground’ and `Glasshouse’ featured the talents of guitarist Eddie Hazel (ex-FUNKADELIC).
As disco music was high on the agenda for most post-R&B acts, The TEMPTATIONS were no exception when HOUSE PARTY (1975) {*5} was up for sale. The berth of the departing Harris now filled by Glenn Leonard halfway through the set, everything but the kitchen sink was thrown in to make up for the album’s short-comings. Roping in Brian & Eddie Holland for the LP’s only chart entry, `Keep Holdin’ On’, STEVE CROPPER stepped in with a few co-credits, and even the group ensemble themselves displayed some versatility on `What You Need Most (I Do Best Of All)’.
While the pop 45s all but dried up, the group still shifted out albums by way of 1976’s WINGS OF LOVE {*4}, a set supposedly aimed by Bowen for a solo Edwards – the result being was his quick-fire dismissal. As their creative muse began to falter, the quintet extricated themselves from Gordy after a reasonably well-received, self-produced album, THE TEMPTATIONS DO THE TEMPTATIONS (1976) {*5}.
Their two subsequent LPs for Atlantic Records: HEAR TO TEMPT YOU (1977) {*4} and BARE BACK (1978) {*3}, were marred by insipid disco stylings. Edwards had been absent for these albums (replaced by baritone Louis Price), although he returned towards the end of the decade when the group hooked up with Gordy again for a comeback title track single from 1980’s POWER {*5}. A return to form in some people’s eyes, vocal duties were shared by Edwards, Street and Leonard, while Franklin’s booming bassline and Otis Williams’ back-up, were on song.
As smooch-y as The STYLISTICS or reminiscent of The CHI-LITES, the commendable arrangements on the festive GIVE LOVE AT CHRISTMAS (1980) {*6}, pointed the way for group again, flitting between MOR and lounge soul. Opening with the minor hit of the poignant `Aiming At Your Heart’, the eponymous THE TEMPTATIONS (1981) {*5} set had a mellowing effect on their listeners when it floated outside the Top 100.
A magnificent 7-piece when Gordy convinced Messrs Ruffin and Kendricks to high-five with their former team-mates for a REUNION (1982) {*6} set, The TEMPTATIONS were re-born and back in the spotlight. Complemented by producers/writers by RICK JAMES (on modest hit `Standing On The Top’) or SMOKEY ROBINSON (for the trio of `Backstage’, `More On The Inside’ and `Like A Diamond In The Sky’), fresh blood had been unearthed in Berry’s son Kerry Gordy, who provided `Lock It In The Pocket’ and `Money’s Hard To Get’.
Sadly short-lived and reunion free, Edwards was again head of the household on the release of the Dennis Lambert-produced/co-penned SURFACE THRILLS (1983) {*4}, while producer Whitfield was re-installed on `Sail Away’, a track from their BACK TO BASICS (1983) {*4}. The absence of Leonard for Ron Tyson on the latter album, and Edwards giving way to baritone Ali-Ollie Woodson for the mushy TRULY FOR YOU (1984) {*5}, a few funky R&B hits were coming their way, their most memorable being UK smash, `Treat Her Like A Lady’.
Augmented by LUTHER VANDROSS and MARCUS MILLER on the dance-tastic `Do You Really Love Your Baby’, 1985’s TOUCH ME {*4} had all the hallmarks of a good EARTH, WIND & FIRE or KOOL & THE GANG album, but limited success from TO BE CONTINUED… (1986) {*5} – from which `Lady Soul’ sprouted Top 50 wings – underlined how understated and stale The TEMPTATIONS had become in the electro-fied 80s.
Edwards again back at the helm (superseding Woodson), the choreographed quintet delivered their umpteenth set via the aptly-titled TOGETHER AGAIN (1987) {*5}, although a lack of singles success positioned this one under the radar of the Top 100. That same year, Hollywood actor and famous fan Bruce Willis invited the 5-piece to sing back-up on his hit version of The DRIFTERS’ `Under The Boardwalk’.
The TEMPTATIONS flame re-kindled once more through the funky and raspy Woodson replacing Edwards, 1989’s SPECIAL {*5} produced a more 3-dimensional harmony. Duly inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in ‘89, the effervescent group soldiered on with MILESTONE (1991) {*4}, but this was merely re-treading their 60s heyday, cabaret style.
The ensuing few years or so were marked by tragedy when DAVID RUFFIN died of a cocaine-induced accidental death on June 1, 1991, while another group superstar EDDIE KENDRICKS died of lung cancer on October 5, 1992. Meanwhile, having found a replacement for long-time member Richard Street, through Theo Peoples, The TEMPTATIONS were scheduled to release a “comeback” set, when original member Melvin Franklin never recovered from a week-long coma and passed away on February 23, 1995; former PARLIAMENT associate Ray Davis stepped in on short notice to join Otis Williams, Peoples, Woodson and Tyson for the Motown album, FOR LOVERS ONLY (1995) {*6}.
With only Otis and Ron remaining from the pack when Ali-Ollie, Ray and, last but not least Theo, departed, a younger barber-shop alumni of TEMPTATIONS (Harry McGilberry, Jr., Barrington “Bo” Henderson and Terry Weeks) were upgraded to full-time on 1998’s Narada Michael-Walden-produced PHOENIX RISING {*5}. Incredibly perhaps, the album was the first of their career to hit the platinum sales bracket, although it still paled next to their classic work.
While it was difficult to even contemplate someone coming up with such a cheesy title as EAR-RESISTIBLE (2000) {*6} – yep, you read that right! – this millennial effort showcased a clutch of classy ballads that actually did some justice to the group’s legacy, earning them a Top 60 chart placing. 2001’s over-stated AWESOME {*4} was another pleasant, if forgettable, addition to their humungous back catalogue.
The enduring TEMPTATIONS – G.C. Cameron and Joe Herndon in for McGilberry and Henderson – continued to release (and chart!) via albums LEGACY (2004) {*5} and REFLECTIONS (2006) {*6}, although Bruce Williamson, Jr. (Cameron absent) was roped in for what might be the group’s final flings:- BACK TO FRONT (2007) {*6} – featuring covers of The DOOBIE BROTHERS’ `Minute By Minute’ and the BEE GEES’ `How Deep Is Your Love’, the UK-only Top 10 breaker CLASSIC SOUL HITS (2008) {*6} and the aptly-titled 50th anniversary set, STILL HERE (2010) {*5}.
© MC Strong 1994-2008/GRD-LCS/BG-MCS // rev-up MCS Dec2015

Share this Project

Leave a Comment