The O’Jays ‘The Last Word’ LP/CD (S-Curve) 5/5

Of late, there has been a plethora of good quality long players, and a considerable number have surfaced on vinyl, albeit for very short periods before they get snapped up. Keeping tabs and snagging them as they arrive is almost a full-time job, with certain outlets stocking but one copy, only to find another outlet has something else that no one else has. I suspect the vinyl runs are very small quantities because some disappear within days of release, in particular, the black vinyl run as opposed to the coloured vinyl.

And so to this glorious nine-track release. It’s an album you can put on from start to finish, no track jumping needed and that’s a rarity in itself. Eddie, Walter and Eric together with Bettie Wright, Steve Greenberg and Mike Mangini created an absolute masterpiece that stands on its own alongside any other album from these perennial giants. Obviously, it has a 2019 feel but with a huge foot well and firmly placed in the ’70s. The O’Jays name was cemented in 1963 and it was also a nod to Cleveland DJ, Eddie O’Jay. The big track on here for our soul brothers across the pond is the mighty protest song ‘Above The Law’, written by Betty Wright, with the black race under immense pressure from Trump’s administration and the police using black men in particular as target practice, racial inequality has never been worse than it is now; this modern day protest song has evolved from the current struggles of the black man – very powerful. Eddie commented on this track “It’s time for a change, we can no longer sit on the fence”, referring to the plight of his kinfolk. For me the track of the album is the meandering stroller, ‘Do you know how I feel’, leads swap as the intensity and pace gather, an epic piece of soul music. So you feel like dancing? Then get your ears around the 70’s inspired thumping ‘I got you’ and I will defy anyone not to get up and move to this. For more of the same, try ‘Enjoy Yourself’, riding on a bed of percussion, this is one addictive shape thrower. Then for good measure, move onto the Philly inspired, ‘Start stopping’, a DJs delight for sure. There are some other fine moments on here with ‘I’ll be sweeter tomorrow’ being a stripped down revisit of their first Top Ten record from 1967; one I could listen to all night. And for an unashamed reminisce, try ’68 Summer nights’, which recalls a time long ago. ‘Pressure’ drops the pace and is a welcome change in tempo.

An utterly fabulous album which is available on all formats, although the vinyl does seem to be a hard one to track down, and whilst this is reputed to be the last studio album from The O’Jays, keep an eye out, for Walter has suggested he may go into producing other artists, so I don’t think for one minute Eddie will sit back and do nothing… the competitive edge they have had since day one is still there, hence the arrival of this album 15 years after the last one, could be the gateway to some nice surprises over the horizon, I can’t wait.

Brian Goucher