Today an American vocal group known for their success with Motown Records during the 1960s and 1970s. Known for their choreography, distinct harmonies, and flashy wardrobe, the group was highly influential to the evolution of R&B and soul music. Having sold tens of millions of albums, the Temptations are one of the most successful groups in music history. As of 2015, the Temptations continue to perform with one living original member, Otis Williams, still in the lineup. ... N'joy
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Thanks to their fine-tuned choreography -- and even finer harmonies -- The Temptations became the definitive male vocal group of the 1960s; one of Motown's most elastic acts, they tackled both lush pop and politically charged funk with equal flair, and weathered a steady stream of changes in personnel and consumer tastes with rare dignity and grace. The Temptations' initial five-man lineup formed in Detroit in 1961 as a merger of two local vocal groups, the Primes and the Distants. Baritone Otis Williams, Elbridge (aka El, or Al) Bryant, and bass vocalist Melvin Franklin were longtime veterans of the Detroit music scene when they joined together in the Distants, who in 1959 recorded the single "Come On" for the local Northern label. Around the same time, the Primes, a trio comprised of tenor Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams (no relation to Otis), and Kell Osborne, relocated to the Motor City from their native Alabama; they quickly found success locally, and their manager even put together a girl group counterpart dubbed the Primettes. (Later, three of the Primettes -- Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard -- formed the Supremes).
In 1961, the Primes disbanded, but not before Otis Williams saw them perform live, where he was impressed both by Kendricks' vocal prowess and Paul Williams' choreography skills. Soon, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Bryant, Franklin, and Kendricks joined together as the Elgins; after a name change to The Temptations, they signed to the Motown subsidiary Miracle, where they released a handful of singles over the ensuing months. Only one, the 1962 effort "Dream Come True," achieved any commercial success, however, and in 1963, Bryant either resigned or was fired after physically attacking Paul Williams. the Tempts' fortunes changed dramatically in 1964 when they recruited tenor David Ruffin to replace Bryant; after entering the studio with writer/producer Smokey Robinson, they emerged with the pop smash "The Way You Do the Things You Do," the first in a series of 37 career Top Ten hits. With Robinson again at the helm, they returned in 1965 with their signature song, "My Girl," a number one pop and R&B hit; other Top 20 hits that year included "It's Growing," "Since I Lost My Baby," "Don't Look Back," and "My Baby."
In 1966, the Tempts recorded another Robinson hit, "Get Ready," before forgoing his smooth popcraft for the harder-edged soul of producers Norman Whitfield and Brian Holland. After spotlighting Kendricks on the smash "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," the group allowed Ruffin to take control over a string of hits including "Beauty's Only Skin Deep" and "(I Know) I'm Losing You." Beginning around 1967, Whitfield assumed full production control, and their records became ever rougher and more muscular, as typified by the 1968 success "I Wish It Would Rain." After Ruffin failed to appear at a 1968 live performance, the other four Tempts fired him; he was replaced by ex-Contour Dennis Edwards, whose less polished voice adapted perfectly to the psychedelic-influenced soul period the group entered following the success of the single "Cloud Nine." As the times changed, so did the group, and as the 1960s drew to a close, The Temptations' music became overtly political; in the wake of "Cloud Nine" -- its title a thinly veiled drug allegory -- came records like "Run Away Child, Running Wild," "Psychedelic Shack," and "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)."
After the chart-topping success of the gossamer ballad "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" in 1971, Kendricks exited for a solo career. Soon, Paul Williams left the group as well; long plagued by alcoholism and other personal demons, he was eventually discovered dead from a self-inflected gunshot wound on August 17, 1973, at the age of 34. In their stead, the remaining trio recruited tenors Damon Harris and Richard Street; after the 1971 hit "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)," they returned in 1972 with the brilliant number one single "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." While the Tempts hit the charts regularly throughout 1973 with "Masterpiece," "Let Your Hair Down," and "The Plastic Man," their success as a pop act gradually dwindled as the '70s wore on. After Harris exited in 1975 (replaced by tenor Glenn Leonard), the group cut 1976's The Temptations Do the Temptations, their final album for Motown. With Louis Price taking over for Edwards, they signed to Atlantic, and attempted to reach the disco market with the LPs Bare Back and Hear to Tempt You.
After Edwards returned to the fold (resulting in Price's hasty exit), the Temptations re-entered the Motown stable, and scored a 1980 hit with "Power." In 1982, Ruffin and Kendricks returned for Reunion, which also included all five of the current Temptations; a tour followed, but problems with Motown, as well as personal differences, cut Ruffin's and Kendricks' tenures short. In the years that followed, The Temptations continued touring and recording, although by the '90s they were essentially an oldies act; only Otis Williams, who published his autobiography in 1988, remained from the original lineup. The intervening years were marked by tragedy: after touring in the late '80s with Kendricks and Edwards as a member of the "Tribute to the Temptations" package tour, Ruffin died on June 1, 1991, after overdosing on cocaine; he was 50 years old. On October 5, 1992, Kendricks died at the age of 52 of lung cancer, and on February 23, 1995, 52-year-old Franklin passed away after suffering a brain seizure.
In 1998, The Temptations returned with Phoenix Rising; that same year, their story was also the subject of a well-received NBC television mini-series. Ear-Resistable followed in the spring of 2000 and would win the Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance the following year. In 2004, Legacy became their last album for Motown as 2006’s Reflections was released by New Door. The label also released their 2007 effort, Back to Front, which featured new recordings of soul classics from the '60s and '70s. After three years of touring the globe, they returned with Still Here, which was issued on the eve of their 50th anniversary.
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The Temptations' first LP, released three years into the group's history with Motown, is also a great record, even though it wasn't really an album so much as a collection of their early singles, hooked around their then new hit, "The Way You Do the Things You Do." Those expecting the classic Temptations sound should also be aware that David Ruffin is absent from all of the tracks except "The Way You Do the Things You Do," which was cut just after he joined, replacing Elbridge "Al" Bryant. Thus, the 12 cuts on this CD represent the evolution of the act and its sound, as well as a succession of producers — Andre Williams and Mickey Stevenson on "Oh, Mother of Mine" and "Romance Without Finance," the group's earliest 45 pairing, issued on the short-lived Miracle label; Norman Whitfield, for one single; Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson; and finally Robinson. The differences are fascinating — "Oh, Mother of Mine," sung by Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks sharing the lead, has an exuberant doo wop-based sound mixed with a serious soulful quality that would eventually define the group; "Romance Without Finance" is a little less derivative, with a heavier, fuller band sound (especially the guitars), but both tracks are rooted in a fast dance beat, in keeping with the tastes of the times (early 1961), and neither had the hooks to make it distinctive unto itself. Several of the Gordy-produced numbers seem highly derivative of other, more familiar songs by other acts — "Paradise" sounds like the Four Seasons covering Maurice Williams' "Stay," and "Isn't She Pretty" comes off like a rewrite (albeit a very pretty one, no joke intended) of the Isley Brothers' "Respectable." These and other Gordy-written and -produced numbers are attractive enough, but not special as songs or productions, despite some excellent singing. One group composition, "Check Yourself," produced by Gordy, is interesting for its abrupt tempo change, and features a beautifully expressive Paul Williams lead vocal. But the Smokey Robinson cuts are where the group's sound blossoms, their harmonies suddenly soaring elegantly with Williams' voice cutting through the center while an understated but fully integral band sound provides the foundation. Coupled with his songwriting, those numbers and Robinson helped put the Temptations on the charts — and well up on the charts — after three years of failure. The sound on the 1999 reissue of this album is excellent and then some (the Earl Van Dyke Band never sounded better), and the notes, although minimal, give some frame of reference for the album's release.
The Temptations - Meet The Temptations (flac 183mb)
01 The Way You Do The Things You Do 2:44
02 I Want A Love I Can See 2:31
03 Dream Come True 2:54
04 Paradise 2:49
05 May I Have This Dance 2:10
06 Isn't She Pretty 2:42
07 Just Let Me Know 2:54
08 Your Wonderful Love 2:48
09 The Further You Look, The Less You See 2:19
10 Check Yourself 2:45
11 Slow Down Heart 2:33
12 Farewell, My Love 2:24
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This was only the group's second LP, and it was an extremely strong one, built around two monster hits ("My Girl" and the previously recorded "The Way You Do the Things You Do") and one close runner-up ("It's Growing"), plus a brace of some of the best songs in the Motown catalog, including renditions of "You Beat Me to the Punch," "What's So Good About Goodbye?," "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," and "Way Over There." All are done in a style unique to the Temptations, with arrangements that are distinctly different from the familiar versions by other Motown acts, and all are worthwhile. The original CD version, released in the mid-'80s, was a major disappointment. In 1998, it was remastered in 24-bit digital audio, giving it vastly superior sound quality (the 1998 copyright on the back is the giveaway, along with the reference to Polygram as owner of Motown); it was the first of the classic individual Motown albums already out on CD to get this treatment. The stereo separation on the reissue is very sharp, the sound is a lot closer and louder, and the detail is startling, right down to the rhythm section, parts of which, on "Baby, Baby I Need You" and "My Girl," stand out in astonishingly sharp relief. The bass on the latter is so solid it's scary, and the disc is worth owning almost as much for the sound as the music, just to show what listeners were missing on those earlier CDs.
The Temptations - Sing Smokey (flac 204mb)
01 The Way You Do The Things You Do 2:38
02 Baby, Baby I Need You 2:51
03 My Girl 2:42
04 What Love Has Joined Together 2:55
05 You'll Lose A Precious Love 2:33
06 It's Growing 2:57
07 Who's Lovin' You 2:57
08 What's So Good About Goodbye 2:37
09 You Beat Me To The Punch 2:42
10 Way Over There 3:00
11 You've Really Got A Hold On Me 2:57
12 (You Can) Depend On Me 2:32
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Best known for their silky soul vocals and smooth-stepping routines, the Temptations were firmly entrenched as the undisputed kings of Barry Gordy's Motown stable when cutting-edge producer Norman Whitfield walked into the studio and announced that it was time to shake things up. The resulting freakout became the first half of the stellar Cloud Nine, an album that would become one of the defining early funk sets, with songs that not only took Motown in a new direction, but helped to shape a genre as well. On one side and across three jams, Whitfield and the Temptations would give '70s-era funk musicians a broad palette from which to draw inspiration. The title track, with its funky soul bordering on psychedelic frenzy, was an audacious album opener, and surely gave older fans a moment's pause. Only two more songs rounded out side one: an incredibly fresh take on "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," which jazzed up the vocals, brought compelling percussion to the fore, and relegated the piano well into the wings, and "Run Away Child, Running Wild," an extravagant nine-minute groove where the sonics easily surpassed the vocals. After shaking up the record-buying public with these three masterpieces, the Temptations brought things back to form for side two. Here, their gorgeous vocals dominated slick arrangements across seven tracks which included "Hey Girl" and the masterful "I Need Your Lovin'." Funk continued to percolate -- albeit subtly -- but compared to side one, it was Temptations business as usual. It was this return to the classic sound, however, which ultimately gave Cloud Nine its odd dynamic. The dichotomy of form between old and new between sides doesn't allow for a continuous gel. But the brash experimentation away from traditional Motown on the three seminal tracks which open the disc shattered the doorway between past and present as surely as the decade itself imploded and smooth soul gave way to blistering funk.
Temptations - Cloud Nine (flac 209mb)
01 Cloud Nine 3:37
02 I Heard It Through The Grapevine 3:00
03 Runaway, Running Wild 9:38
04 Love Is A Hurtin' Thing 2:28
05 Hey Girl 2:38
06 Why Did She Have To Leave Me (Why Did She Have To Go) 2:56
07 I Need You Lovin' 2:35
08 Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me 2:31
09 I Gotta Find A Way (To Get You Back) 2:56
10 Gonna Keep On Tryin' Till I Win Your Love 2:32
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Both The Temptations and producer Norman Whitfield were at the top of their form with 1969's Puzzle People, which captures the group in the midst of their rock-influenced "socially conscious" period. While the lead-off cut, "I Can't Get Next To You", was a potent R&B dance-floor filler, elsewhere the album was dotted with "relevant" tunes such as "Message From A Black Man" (not nearly as militant as it sounds), "Don't Let The Joneses Get You Down", and the "life-in-prison" epic "Slave", complete with plenty of fuzztone and wah-wah and enough panning to make George Clinton dizzy. But while the material and the production is a bit dated, Whitfield and his crew certainly caught The Funk Brothers on a great run when they cut these sessions, with the musicians blending the swagger and confidence of rock with a soundly funky undertow and chops to spare. And as for the Temptations themselves, if new lead vocalist Dennis Edwards lacked the elan of David Ruffin, he had power to spare, and the group's harmonies and shared vocals found room for both smooth precision and streetwise grit. While short on hits past the opening track (and padded with well-executed but hardly essential covers of "Hey Jude" and "Little Green Apples", Puzzle People is still the work of a great vocal group firing on all cylinders and getting inspired support in the studio, and it's one of the group's strongest late-60's efforts.
The Temptations - Puzzle People (flac 271mb)
01 I Can't Get Next To You 2:52
02 Hey Jude 3:30
03 Don't Let The Joneses Get You Down 4:43
04 Message From A Black Man 5:50
05 It's Your Thing 3:00
06 Little Green Apples 3:40
07 You Don't Love Me No More 2:35
08 Since I've Lost You 2:43
09 Running Away (Ain't Gonna Help You) 2:46
10 That's The Way Love Is 3:10
11 Slave 7:20
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