The O’Jays

The O’Jays

For The Love…

MCA

I had such high hopes for this record. The mere fact of The O’Jays’ existence is cause for celebration, and I love the fact that these old-school soul veterans refuse to leave the playing field. After all, the voices of Eddie Levert and Walter Williams are deep and rich like a chocolate cheesecake, and newcomer Eric Grant proves that he can more or less hold his own with the older members. And, due to historical hits like “For the Love of Money,” “Back Stabbers,” and “Love Train,” people just love The O’Jays.

With the right material and the right attitude, The O’Jays could be a major player in the renaissance of rhythm and blues music we’ve seen in the last few years. Look at The Isley Brothers; thanks to the intercession of R. Kelly, Ronald Isley has re-made himself into “Frank Biggs,” and so The Isleys’ new record sold scads of copies all over the place. So why couldn’t The O’Jays get some of that?

Well, they could, but this record won’t do it. It’s almost an hour of undistinguished slow jams that merely serve to showcase those timeless voices rather than push anything forward. Yes, everyone sounds great, with their lived-in voices and matchless phrasing; if you’re looking for a romantic CD, and your partner doesn’t listen too closely, you couldn’t go much wrong with For The Love… But the most modern-sounding thing here is producer Steve “Stone” Huff’s “Let’s Ride,” but it just sounds like Montell Jordan, and Montell’s popularity was over many years ago. The rest of the tracks were written by the group with Mathew Rose, and they just sound like the kind of quiet storm stuff I was rockin’ in the ’80s, when it was already kind of played. And someone better inform them that no one, no matter how Latin or hot, wants to be called “mamacita” anymore.

What The O’Jays need is their own R. Kelly to take them under their wing and update their sound: maybe King Britt or Jill Scott or one of those wild younger Philly-based talents could hook up their forefathers with some tight grooves that sound like today. But it just doesn’t stand up to repeated listenings — and if you’ve heard anything by Erykah Badu or D’Angelo or any of today’s more radical stylists, For The Love… might not even get through one listen.

MCA Records: http://www.mcarecords.com

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