Friday, January 11, 2008

I Can't Get Next to You, The Temptations (1969)

I wasn't planning on this song today, but it came on the radio while I was driving to work, and got me all stirred up. A group singular for its out-of-this-world vocal stylings and ultra smooth choreography, the Temptations were entertainers down to their DNA, and I wasn't prepared for how happy it was going to make me to hear them today.

The "Tempts" sometimes referred to themselves as "five lead vocalists," and I Can't Get Next to You is a sterling example of this principle in action. Always grittier, edgier and funkier than their Motown brethren, the Four Tops, here each of the Temptations chimes in with successive lines of the song's verses, showcasing their crazily diverse and spectacular singing voices, as well as their exuberant showmanship. And of course underpinning the whole affair are the Funk Brothers, providing the instrumental fundamentals.

I don't know what it says about the schizoid nature of the culture of the time that, when this song was #1 on the Billboard pop charts, 3 of the other top five songs were by Bobby Sherman, Oliver and the Archies. (The other was Sly & the Family Stone, which Temptations producer Norman Whitfield was reportedly attempting to emulate.)

In any event, while psychedelic influences were chipping away at the relevance of other Motown artists, the Temptations - with former Contour Dennis Edwards replacing the departing David Ruffin - managed to deliver red-hot hits (Cloud Nine, Ball of Confusion, et al) one after the other during the latter part of the 60s, of which this one is my favorite.

1 comment:

Mombi said...

YAY! I'm having fun reading these posts, catching up on what I've missed. What wonderful, thoughtful tributes to an amazing collection of music!

When will "Estivator's Best of CD" be released? ;-)