Funky Music ‘Sho Nuff Turns Me On

psychedelic-shack-tempts

Here is a classic psychedelic soul album from the Temptations on another freakadelic friday.  I have a two disco compilation of the group’s psychedelic period.  I am putting up disc two first because it has one of my favorite songs ever, “Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On.”  It will forever make my spine tingle.  He was given the Temptations as a group in 1966 and went on to work with several partners, including Eddie Holland of Holland-Dozier-Holland fame until that trio split in 1967, writing material for the Tempts.  With the departure of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Whitfield became one of Motown’s best songwriters.  He often wrote Temptations’ material with Barrett Strong after 1967. Roger Penzabene was another Whitfield collaborator until he took his life on New Years’ Eve 1967 due to his wife’s unfaithfulness.

Psychedelic Soul finds Whitfield pushing the Dennis Edwards-era Temptations into far different sonic and thematic territory from the David Ruffin-period (pre-’68).  Whitfield was into epically long songs, so at times he could be overindulgent.  However, the transformation of the Temptations from smooth, soulful crooning to gritty, fire and brimstone, dubby social commentary resulted in some wonderful music.  Fusing the Motown sound with psychedelic rock, Whitfield’s style was heavily influenced by Sly Stone, Funkadelic, Isaac Hayes, and Curtis Mayfield.

A compilation of their best psychedelic material from 1967 to 1973, Psychedelic Soul documents the evolution of the Temptations, Motown, and American society.  Meanwhile, the vocalists weren’t very happy with the arrangement since Whitfield had almost complete creative control.  In 1974, he ceased being the Temptations producer.  Whitfield’s working relationship with Strong ended in 1972 after their collaboration on “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” is one of my favorite Norman Whitfield songs.  The Undisputed Truths’ version is a bit harder than the Temptations’ take, which is still outstanding.  Percolating guitar holds the groove while Whitfield orchestrates and the Temptations lay down some knowledge.  Plus, the bassoon is awesome.

I’m telling you beware, beware of the handshake
That hides the snake
Listen to me now, beware
Beware of that pat on the back
It just might hold you back
Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don’t tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof

Utilizing hand claps, some crunchy, fuzzed-out guitar, screaming harmonica and the famous Motown tambourine sound, the Temptations “Ungena Za Ulimengu (Unite The World)” unite  melody and distortion.

“Love Can Be Anything (Can’t Nothing Be Love But Love)” is one of the overly indulgent songs clocking in at over 9 minutes.

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Sharply ascending and descending strings and announcing  transition into some beautiful harpsichord.  I am a huge sucker for harpsichord, so I am a fan of  “Take A Look Around” despite the fact the harpsichord only appears briefly at the beginning and end.

Channeling some Sly & the Family Stone, the Temptations “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)” is an enjoyable, short number.

One of the funkiest tracks ever recorded, “Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On” has IT in a big way.  I am a big fan of the razor sounding guitar mixed way underneath.  If I were to remix this song all I would do is extend it by two or three minutes.

Whitfield loved to record multiple versions of his songs and “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” was no exception despite its’ prodigious length.  One of the most popular late 1960s Motown songs, no more words need to be sacrificed on “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.”

The chorus of “Plastic Man” has a groove and strings infected with the Philly Soul sound.  I love the dubby horns.

Taking its’ time to get to the meat of the song, “Masterpiece” has some more bassoon.  “Masterpiece” is a pretty minimal song, but has the classic Motown bass bottom, string melodies, and Whitfield’s studio production.  I am a big fan of the shimmering guitar.  Whitfield throws down a full sound on the latter half of the song.

The Temptations’ “Ain’T No Justice,” which again has outstanding production.  Whitfield’s consistency might get boring, like Tim Duncan, but ultimately you have to give him mad respect for being so consistently good even if he was following very closely in the footsteps of other artists.

“1990” is perhaps the angriest Temptations song.  Again, the group is concerned with the plight of the poor, particularly the urban poor.

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