Category: The O’Jays

The O’Jays – The Essential O’Jays

ARTIST: The O’Jays        ojays

TITLE:  The Essential O’Jays.

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation


SINGLES: Top 30: Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette) (#48 US, #28 R&B), Stand in for Love (#95 US, #12 R&B), I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today) (#66 US, #8 R&B), One Night Affair (#68 US, #15 R&B), Back Stabbers (#3 US, #1 R&B, #14 UK), 992 Arguments (#57 US, #13 R&B), Love Train (#1 US, #1 R&B, #9 UK), Put Your Hands Together (#10 US, #2 R&B), For the Love of Money (#9 US, #3 R&B), Give the People What They Want (#45 US, #1 R&B), Survival (#10 R&B), Message in Our Music (#49 US, #1 R&B), Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet Tender Love) (#72 US, #1 R&B, #24 UK), Use ta Be My Girl (#4 US, #1 R&B, #12 UK), Brandy (#79, #21 R&B, #21 UK), Sing A Happy Song (#102 US, #7 R&B, #39 UK), Forever Mine (#28 US, #4 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, that’s a lot of hits up there, isn’t it though?

LINEUP: Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey, Bill Isles. Massey and Isles left in the early 70’s. Sammy Strain came on in the late 70’s.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Vocal group moves from 60’s soul to 70’s Philly Soul and disco without a hitch, leaving a trail of hits and deep cuts collected here for your pleasure.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Casual listeners maybe know three or four of the above songs, but the O’Jays move from a good soul vocal group to a great Philly group under Gamble & Huff is noteworthy, and it shows in the tracks of this compilation.

The depth and breadth of the talent of the O’Jays is on display. They’re comfortable with the funk, but just as comfortable with the slow jams and ballads. They could make you dance, and get you canoodling on the couch.

While some of the individual albums are streaming, I felt this was economical as all of the noteworthy songs are here (mostly), and it shows a great overview of the O’Jays. The later they get, though, the more mediocre the songs, and they last couple of cuts are not necessary.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Due to licensing, some of the songs they cut in the 60’s aren’t streaming in this collection. They ran through about five companies in the 60’s. Also, “Stairway to Heaven” isn’t a cover – it’s an original weeper / pleader.


GRADE: A-: Great overview of the group that put on a few too many later songs.

The O’Jays – Back on Top

ARTIST: The O’Jays 220px-Back_on_Top_O'Jays_1968
TITLE: Back on Top
SINGLES: I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today) (#66, #8 R&B), Look Over Your Shoulder (#89, #27 R&B), The Choice (#94, #41 R&B), I Miss You
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Late 60’s non-Motown deep cuts don’t get played much, do they?
LINEUP: Eddie Levert, William Powell, Walter Williams, Bobby Massey. Plus session players.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Long-standing soul vocal group gets their second taste of success, and records a pretty good record supporting the single. Success is fleeting, though.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The O’Jays had been around since 1960, searching for a hit. They had three R&B hits in 1965 and 1966, but just couldn’t sustain the success on record. (On tour, though, they were popular.)

They moved to Bell Records and recorded I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow in 1967. That was a Top 10 R&B hit, and soon they recorded more singles and enough tracks to fill a 14-track album, released in 1968.

It’s a good representation of non-Motown soul from that period. Excellent group vocals and somewhat sophisticated arrangements. The ONE thing that bothers me, and why I was on the fence to exile this, was that for whatever reason, between each cut, they piped in canned crowd noise. For one, that makes it hard to put these tracks on a playlist or a mix. For two, it sounds cheesy.

Still there’s some good late 60’s soul here and recommended for those who have a good ear for it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Right before this record, founding member Bill Isles quit the group. Right after, Bobby Massey quit and the group once again was looking for a hit and guidance. Enter Gamble and Huff…

Also, they released two albums on Imperial / Minit in 1965 and 1966. They’ve disappeared. I’m not going to flag them as missing because they’re older and pretty minor in the scheme of things.


GRADE: B-: Knocking off two points for the crowd noise. It’s a pretty darn good record otherwise.
LATE NOTE: I did exile this in favor of their compilation.