O’JAYS / “O’Jays Mixtape”
Somewhere around 1957 or 1958 a group of buddies (Walter Williams, Bill Isles, Bobby Massey, William Powell and Eddie Levert) at McKinney High in Canton, Ohio formed The Triumphs vocal group and set out on the elusive but real road to success in the entertainment industry. In 1963 they adopted the now famous O’Jays name, which was taken from radio disc jockey Eddie O’Jay. By 1960 they had performed on ABC Television and in 1972 they produced their first million-seller, “Back Stabbers.” And from there, one would have had to be deaf or dead not to have heard at least four or five of the many, many O’Jays hits. A major part of their success was a result of hooking up with producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff whom they had first met in 1967 and with whom they signed a record deal in 1972. By then they were a trio—Isles left in 1967 and Massey left in 1967. The core trio went on to make musical history. Back in August of 2007 we featured their 1973 album Ship Ahoy, which remains one of the most conscious R&B albums ever. From slavery (“Ship Ahoy”) to ecology (“The Air I Breathe”), from black-on-black crime (“Don’t Call Me Brother”) to a major love song (“Now That We Found Love”), Ship Ahoy is an album for the ages—a major classic. Replete with massive hits, the album was a stellar example that music could be simultaneously popular and political. Indeed the major hits off Ship Ahoy were “For The Love Of Money” and “You got Your Hooks In Me”—an economic condemnation and a blues cry about a hurtful relationship. The Gamble & Huff Philadelphia International Record label was a veritable village of song-writers, arrangers, musicians and performers whose music accurately maps the emotions and movements current during the seventies in the black community during the decade of the seventies. Collectively, they were deeply in tune with the feelings of working class black folk throughout the country. Although there were many other attempts by blacks to establish music businesses, other than Motown, Philly International was the most economically successful. Moreover, whereas Motown was consciously trying to cash in on crossover appeal, Philly International, led by the O’Jays, was consciously identifying their sound with the black community. And no other group so effectively embodied gospel, R&B and jazz in one package as did The O’Jays. Once they got rolling, their songs usually exceeded the 3-minute radio standard. Lead by Eddie Lavert’s gritty emoting, the trio could go on for ten minutes or more, improvising off of one another as their voices entwined in ecstatic passion. Moreover, the Gamble & Huff productions featured jazzy arrangements highlighted by brilliant and subtle percussion and inventive, jazz-influenced musical motifs. But what is truly incredible is the amount of first-class music The O’Jays produced. This is our longest Mixtape featuring a single group or artist—and there’s not one dull moment or second-rate song among the 29 selections. The O’Jays catalogue is a tremendous cornucopia of musical delights that makes it impossible to pick only one, two, or even five or ten hits to say "this handful is the best of The O’Jays." On top of the quality of the songs and the quality of the accompanying music is the stellar vocal work that trumps other vocal groups of that era. The O’Jays harmonies are impeccable. Their rhythmic drive is relentless. And their falsetto flights are awesome. They are simply brilliant musical technicians who sing with fulsome soul. It’s neigh impossible to sit still when listening to them. The O’Jays were incomparable when it came to giving the listener something to both think about and dance to. Regardless of the focus of the song, from political anthems to intimate love songs, the lyrics were always delivered with heartfelt intensity. If asked to name a major old skool vocal group, The O’Jays might not be the first ensemble to come to mind but when you compare their output song for song, album for album, the O’Jays quickly rise to the top of anyone’s list. There has yet to be a vocal group whose discography matches the O’Jays—the heart of the Philly soul sound. —Kalamu ya Salaam O’Jays Mixtape Playlist The Essential O'Jays 01 “Message In Our Music” Collectors’ Items 02 “I Love Music” 03 “Livin' For The Weekend” 04 “Love Train” 05 “Survival” 06 “Ship Ahoy” 07 “For The Love Of Money” Back Stabbers 08 “Back Stabbers” Ship Ahoy 09 “Don't Call Me Brother” 10 “This Air I Breathe” Survival 11 “Rich Get Richer” Ship Ahoy 12 “Put Your Hands Together” Survival 13 “Give The People What They Want” Give The People What They Want 14 “Unity” Family Reunion 15 “Family Reunion” The Best Of The O'Jays: Love Train 16 “992 Arguments” Ship Ahoy 17 “You Got Your Hooks In Me” Survival 18 “What Am I Waiting For” The Essential O'Jays 19 “Use Ta Be My Girl” Give The People What They Want 20 “Who Am I” In Bed With The O'Jays 21 “Cry Together” Survival 22 “Let Me Make Love To You” Live In London 23 “Wildﬂower” 24 “Sunshine” The Essential O'Jays 25 “Darlin' Darlin' Baby” Family Reunion 26 “Stairway To Heaven” Ship Ahoy 27 “Now That We Found Love” Bob Dylan The 30th Anniversary Concert 28 “Emotionally Yours (Album Version)” Survival 29 “How Time Flies”
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