The Temptations could always out-sing, out-dance and out-dress any group in sight, as evidenced by the recent DVD, Get Ready! The Definitive Performances, 1965-72, which has scanned upwards of 107,000 copies to date. Time has taken its toll, of course, and original Tempts members Paul Williams, future solo artists David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, and basso profundo Melvin Franklin have all since shuffled off this mortal coil.
Nevertheless, the current edition of the Temptations — founder Otis Williams, Ron Tyson (class of '83), Terry Weeks ('98), Joe Herndon ('03) and Bruce Williamson ('07) – continue to uphold these proud traditions on this, the group's 48th LP.
An obvious follow-up to last year's Grammy-winning Reflections, where they sang an album's worth of hits by fellow former Motown artists; Back to Front – their first disc for the New Door label — features the Temptations' takes on such '70s soul classics as Barry White's "Never Never Gonna Give You Up," the Teddy Pendergrass-led Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "Wake Up Everybody," and the Jeffrey Osbourne-fronted L.T.D.'s "Back in Love Again."
Along with '60s soulstirrers from the Staple Singers, Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett, they also essay pop/soul numbers from the Bee Gees ("How Deep Is Your Love"), the Doobie Brothers ("Minute by Minute") and the Jerry Butler & Betty Everett version of the Everly Brothers' "Let It Be Me." Aside from not-so-mute testimony to the Temptations' range, it's all solid smoke — mostly because none of the lead singers stoop to simple, karaoke-style imitations of the original recordings.
Still, given the Tempts' formidable talent for soaring, airbrushed harmonies and their signature tag-team vocals, I'd like to hear them cut their so-called competition to shreds with a straight-up a cappella album. (And not just doo-wop standards.) There's always next year ...
Don Waller writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].