Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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The Temptations
The Temptations Otis Williams Temptations Topping the B&S Readers Pole in 1972 The Temptations

Amazing as it seems, The Temptations’ name first appeared on Billboard’s R&B charts in 1962 with “Dream Come True. "Ask any self-respecting music fan and it’s likely that mention of the legendary team will evoke at least two or three song titles –

'My Girl' (possibly the group’s most- loved classic recording), 'Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),' 'Get Ready;' the list is virtually endless and in fact, The Temptations have enjoyed more hit singles on the R&B charts than any other soul music group in history with in excess of ninety chart appearances. Their accolades and achievements are voluminous but add one more significant fact: of their peers, this pioneering Motown group remains virtually the only active vocal team still recording new material forty-five years later.

We say ‘new’ material but actually, the group’s latest set, 'Back To Front' is in fact a collection of cover versions of classic soul cuts, popularized by others and most notably, the selection includes not one single Motown track: in 2006, New Door Records, a Universal Music Group label dedicated to issuing new music by legendary artists, issued “Reflections,” a 15-song CD by the perennial hitmakers which saw them revisit classic Motown cuts like Jimmy Ruffin’s 'What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,' The Supremes’ 'I Hear A Symphony' and Marvin Gaye’s early hit 'Can I Get A Witness.'

The latest in a long list of over forty albums recorded by The Temptations since ‘62, 'Back To Front' (released in October of last year) is the follow-up to 'Reflections' and showcases the five-man group (headed by last remaining original member Otis Williams, a Temptation since ’61) on well-known and much loved hits from the ‘60s and ‘70s, giving a nod to other musical empires such as Stax (via versions of The Staple Singers’ 'Respect Yourself' and Sam & Dave’s 'Hold On, I’m Comin’) and Philly International (with 'Wake Up Everybody,' first cut by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes).

The choice of material on 'Back To Front' (which also includes the Wilson Pickett chestnut “I’m In Love,” two songs associated with LTD, 'Back In Love Again' and “Love Ballad,” Barry White’s 'Never, Never Gonna Give You Up' and the Skip Scarborough-penned 'Don’t Ask My Neighbor,' recorded by The Emotions, Nancy Wilson and Gary Taylor) was down to Otis: “I picked all the songs,” he comments. “I chose the songs because they were all favorite songs of mine, some from childhood. I’ve liked all these songs for a while and had always wanted to make an album like this.” Admitting to being “a big fan of Barry White and Sam & Dave so I knew I was going to do one of their songs,” Otis says that recording songs popularized by other artists wasn’t necessarily tough: “None of them were really challenging. I guess the only difficult part at first was figuring out how we were going to put our own twist on them.”

So far, reaction to the CD has been good, says Otis. “This album seems to speak to a lot of people. Every time I talk to someone about it, they have a different favorite from the set,” he states, noting that the group has been busy performing and promoting the record in recent months. Now consisting of Otis alongside Ron Tyson, a Temptation since 1983, Terry Weeks (on board since 1997), Joe Herndon (2003) and recent addition Bruce Williamson, the group spends an average of an incredible thirty-four weeks on the road, with no signs of slowing down! With so many accomplishments over the four decades since its inception, The Temptations have, according to Otis, “accomplished all our [original] goals. We have three Grammy Awards and fourteen No. 1 hit songs – we’ve seen a lot of success!”
With 2008 marked as the start of Motown’s 50th anniversary year, Otis recalls that being a part of the Motown Revival Tour and attending the company’s annual Christmas parties in Detroit back in the day are among his most special memories. With pride, he concludes “We’ve had a really great career!” and with 'Back To Front' demonstrating the Temptations’ unheralded longevity as a viable recording and performing group, Otis and co. – borrowing the title of a major solo hit by original Temptation, the late Eddie Kendricks - just keep on truckin’!

The Temptations play
Oct 28 - Manchester Apollo Manchester,
Oct 29 - Nottingham Royal Centre
Oct 31 - Sheffield City Hall's Irwin Mitchell Oval Hall

Nov 1 - Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
Nov 2 - Hammersmith Apollo - London
Nov 4 - Royal & Derngate - Northampton
Nov 6 - Chichester Festival Theatre
Nov 7 - Symphony Hall - Birmingham
Nov 8 - New Theatre - Oxford
Nov 10 - Colston Hall - Bristol
Nov 11 - The Sage - Gateshead
Nov 12 - De Montfort Hall - Leciester

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