The Emotions ‘Blessed – The Emotions Anthology 1969-1985’ 2CD (BBR) 5/5

the-emotionsThe medium of the CD is much decried, but where it wins hands down in format usefulness is when it spans several decades and separate labels of a given artist, and so it proves on this fully comprehensive overview of one of the most sublime vocal harmony groups in soul music, the Hutchinson sisters Sheila, Wanda and Jeanette, aka The Emotions. Devotees of Earth, Wind and Fire will marvel at the collaborations between that group and the sisters, but may be totally unaware of The Emotions earlier gospel-inflected soul on the off-shoot labels of Stax. Fans of Stax may well be unfamiliar with the later mid-1980s recordings of the sisters. While at Stax Isaac Hayes and David Porter were entrusted with song writing duties for The Emotions and came up with a few gems, most notably the downtempo, ‘Show me how’ from 1971, while another uptempo song and original b-side, ‘Blind alley’, revealed that the distinctive collective harmonies were already in evidence and like, the Everly and Louvin Brothers before them in country and pop music fields, the Hutchinson’s possessed a melodic gift that only siblings could truly conjure up. Not everything was wholly convincing as the Motown sounding, ‘From toys to boys’, from 1972 demonstrated. However, the sister hit a mid-1970s zenith with a trio of stunning albums, ‘Flowers’, ‘Sunbeam’ and ‘Blessed’, and unsurprisingly, this triumvirate comprises a large part of the songs on the new anthology. Classy uptempo numbers such as ‘Love vibes’ and the minor hit, ‘Shouting out love’. remain eternal soul favourites, but it was the pairing of the sisters with the Earth, Wind and Fire hit making factory that propelled the sisters to ever greater heights and these sides are rightly showcased here. Anthemic dance grooves succeeded one another with ‘I don’t want to lose your love’, ‘Best of my love’ and ‘Boogie wonderland’, all major hits’. Even the lesser popular songs were of a high calibre and these include the impeccable harmonies of ‘Smile’ from 1978, the classy ‘We go through changes’, and the subtler side to the group with the mid-1980s, ‘You’re the one’, that was in stark contrast to the prevailing simplistic hooks of the period. Irrespective of era, label or production stable, The Emotions were capable of producing their own sound. Impeccable sleeve notes with full colour front cover albums, individual listings of album details. terrific photos of the ladies in their prime, and ten pages of discographical information from music writer Christian John Wikane grace this superlative anthology.

Tim Stenhouse