The Whispers ‘Three Classic Albums: ‘Whisper in Your Ear’ / ‘The Whispers’ / ‘Imagination’ 2CD (Robinsong) 4/5

The Sound of Solar came to fruition with groups of the calibre of groups such as Dynasty, Shalamar and The Whispers and this 2 CD set takes us through the breakthrough albums for the label that led to major disco and pop chart success. Part of that ingredient was the highly distinctive instrumentation, with heavy bass lines prominent, clipped rhythm guitar, full brass and strings, and those oh so mighty handclaps. On the first album, ‘Whisper in Your Ear’ (1979), that sound was still in its infancy and, consequently, the album originally sunk without trace, although The Whispers soulful collective harmonies are very much in place. While nothing equated to dance floor action in the end of disco era, the quality mid-tempo soul songs hinted at greater things to come, as evidenced on, ‘If I Don’t Want Your Love’ and ‘Jump For Joy’.

Of course, the second album from the same year, ‘The Whispers’, was a different kettle of fish, and the Solar sound was by then fully in place. A lovely soulful disco interpretation of the Motown classic, ‘My Girl’, with a terrific bass and percussive intro, now sounds totally fresh and worthy of a disco reprise. The major hit was, ‘And The Beat Goes On’, a definitive piece of disco action, and it became a monster hit on the disco, R & B, and pop charts alike. However, the soulful ingredients that made The Whispers such an entertaining act were still very much in evidence, as heard on the staccato rhythm ballad of ‘Lady’, with blues-inflected electric piano, and a faithful reading of Donny Hathaway’s ‘Song for Donny’.

By the third album, ‘Imagination’ (1980), The Whispers were hitting a creative prime and this was by far the strongest of the albums on offer, and one moreover that places major emphasis on dance floor grooves this time round. A worthy successor to ‘And The Beat Goes On’, came in the shape of ‘It’s A Love Thing’, which is just as catchy, while the title track oozed those trademark Solar ingredients. Sounding ahead of its time, and one that label mates Shalamar would pick up on ‘Continental Shuffle’, featured a more left-field sound, and remains a personal favourite of this writer. For a classic disco sound, the brass and strings intro to ‘I Can Make It Better’, guaranteed chart success and this particular album sold well in the UK on import and as a UK release. As ever with this re-issue series, fully detailed notes from regular writer, Christian John Wilkane, provide the historical context, and all the usual attention to graphics in terms of original labels. As a bonus, five of the singles are added in their 45 versions.

Tim Stenhouse