Teddy Pendergrass ‘Joy’ (BBR) 3/5

teddy-pendergrassPost Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, soul singer Teddy Pendergrass was catapulted to superstar status in the US with an acclaimed series of solo albums for Philly International. However, his career and life was seriously called into question with a life-changing car accident in the early 1980s which resulted in him being paralysed from waist down. A 1984 album marked a partial return to form and included a top 20 R & B single in ‘You’re my choice tonight’. In 1987 Teddy Pendergrass signed for another branch of the Warner family in Elektra and by this time the soul music industry was in a state of flux with machines replacing top studio musicians. Moreover, a new king on the throne was in full bloom, Luther Vandross.
The album ‘Joy’ was co-produced by some of the in-house producers of the day and included Miles Jaye who was a long-term fan of Teddy, Reggie and Vincent Calloway and hit make, Nick Martinelli, who had been producer on Loose Ends’ ‘Hangin on a string’, a major number one R & B hit in the States for a British band as well as a UK hit for Fat Larry’s Band with ‘Zoom’, and a classy re-working of ‘I’ll be around’ for Terri Wells.
In truth, Teddy Pendergrass is a shadow of his former self on this album and the production now sounds dated and overly glossy. That said, some of the old magic was not lost and both the title track and ‘2 A.M.’ were songs that stand the test of time well. Fans of this era of Teddy have a treat in store for them since among the bonus cuts are on less than three mixes of ‘2 A.M.’ and two of ‘Joy’. The title track would become a number one R & B success and there was a classic ballad for Teddy to master on ‘Good to you’. Where he fared less better was on the funk-tinged, ‘I’m ready’, where his older self might have risen to the challenge, the post-accident Teddy did not sound as convincing.

Tim Stenhouse