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. ojays 09.jpg 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. ojays 08.jpg 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. ojays 11.jpg 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. ojays 12.jpg 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 ojays cover 01.jpg The Essential O'Jays 01 “Message In Our Music” ojays cover 02.jpg 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” ojays cover 03.jpg Back Stabbers 08 “Back Stabbers” ojays cover 04.jpg Ship Ahoy 09 “Don't Call Me Brother” 10 “This Air I Breathe” ojays cover 05.jpg Survival 11 “Rich Get Richer” ojays cover 04.jpg Ship Ahoy 12 “Put Your Hands Together” ojays cover 05.jpg Survival 13 “Give The People What They Want” ojays cover 06.jpg Give The People What They Want 14 “Unity” ojays cover 07.jpg Family Reunion 15 “Family Reunion” ojays cover 08.jpg The Best Of The O'Jays: Love Train 16 “992 Arguments” ojays cover 04.jpg Ship Ahoy 17 “You Got Your Hooks In Me” ojays cover 05.jpg Survival 18 “What Am I Waiting For” ojays cover 01.jpg The Essential O'Jays 19 “Use Ta Be My Girl” ojays cover 06.jpg Give The People What They Want 20 “Who Am I” ojays cover 09.jpg In Bed With The O'Jays 21 “Cry Together” ojays cover 05.jpg Survival 22 “Let Me Make Love To You” ojays cover 10.jpg Live In London 23 “Wildflower” 24 “Sunshine” ojays cover 01.jpg The Essential O'Jays 25 “Darlin' Darlin' Baby” ojays cover 07.jpg Family Reunion 26 “Stairway To Heaven” ojays cover 04.jpg Ship Ahoy 27 “Now That We Found Love” ojays cover 11.jpg Bob Dylan The 30th Anniversary Concert 28 “Emotionally Yours (Album Version)” ojays cover 05.jpg Survival 29 “How Time Flies”

This entry was posted on Monday, May 17th, 2010 at 4:41 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “O’JAYS / “O’Jays Mixtape””

Trel Says:
May 19th, 2010 at 1:06 am

It”s always a special moment when you cross paths with someone who just ‘gets it’ — and that’s what I feel when I can stand on the same page with someone to discuss music! Such is the case with your weekly postings. Tonight, I shine the spotlight on YOU (http://hotbuttasoul.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/inner-soul-spotlight-breath-of-life-bol-weekly-worldwide-musical-journey/)

Thank you!

JDiane shabazz Says:
August 10th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I have & continue to admire these men. I offer gratitude for the example that you set of talent, endurance and longevity. Your music and personality is a “fresh breath” of energy in life and has been so for “all of my life.”

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