Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Cloud Nine" by The Temptations (February, 1969)

Brad's Take:

Seeing a Temptations album come up on our list, I got really excited. I was surprised when this one started up though. From the get go, this is not your typical Temptations record. This is a borderline-psychedelic, upbeat, almost-funky version of the group that previously performed ballads such "My Girl" and other classics. Needless to say, it took a few minutes for me to warm up to this new direction they were going in.

Apparently, a couple of the members became very inspired by Sly & The Family Stone. Not all of the songs are upbeat soul jams with groovin' bass lines. In fact, it's mostly just the first half of the the album that ventures into that style. Cloud Nine has some classic Temptations styled songs as well, such as "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing" and "Why Did She Have To Leave." Mid-tempo songs about bummed out hearts.

After the first couple of songs, the change in sound clicked with me, and I was fully on board. I even went back and started the album over so I could give those first couple songs a more open-minded listen. Cloud Nine feels extremely dated, sure, but for what it is, I thought it was a lot of fun. The second half is a lot more comfortable and laid back, which is how I prefer my Temptations to sound. The groovin' upbeat jams are definitely welcome though.

Dad's Take

It seems like, so far, Motown has been under-represented on our list. Cloud Nine is a good way to bring it back to our attention. The Temptations wanted to emulate the new funky psychedelia of Sly & the Family Stone (and where are their excellent late sixties albums on our list, huh?), so this album is the beginning of their psychedelic period.

The title song is the one indisputable classic track on this album, and it's a great one, a funky, psychedelic, socially aware about using chemicals to escape from the kinds of problems that were all too common among the primary audience of Motown's soul groups. The other great song here, is the often-forgotten "Runaway Child, Running Wild."

Other than those songs, the album is enjoyable but doesn't blow me away. There's a lackluster vocal performance of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," over a pretty cool track, punctuated with some Sly-like "boom boom" scatting. It seems like for a while, everybody on Motown tried their hand at that song. I really enjoyed "Love Is A Hurting Thing," "Hey Girl," and "Why Did She Have To Leave Me (Why Did She Have To Go)."

Other than that, the album is enjoyable but not particularly memorable. Still, the title song was highly influential and still sounds good today, even if it is, as the youngster pointed out, a little dated. On the strength of that one song, it's easy to argue in favor of this album's inclusion on our classic albums list, and the rest of the record supports it nicely.

No comments: