Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes feat. Teddy Pendergrass ‘To Be True’ (BBR) 4/5

harold-melvin-blue-notesThe third album that Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes recorded, this finds the group in classic Philadelphia International territory with uptempo gems and classy ballads. Pride of place here is the second single that became a number one R & B and disco classic and that is ‘Bad luck’, which here is no less than an extended re-edit from Tom Moulton. This represents a fabulous bonus for the listener and the CD is worth purchasing for that alone. For once Moulton does not lengthen the intro, but instead allows the vocal to enter as on the original. However, he more than makes up with a middle section breakdown that then builds up the tension again with punchy brass and subtle vibes that are brought to the fore in thrilling fashion, and Teddy Pendergrass ad-libs on a truly uplifting gospel-tinged finale. This is quite simply an all-time disco classic.
Gene McFadden contributes three songs on the album and of these, the excellent mid-tempo dancer, ‘Where are all my friends?’ was the very first single to be released and features an especially strong vocal delivery from Pendergrass. In contrast Teddy is at his most intimate on, ‘Pretty flower’, that begins as a delicate ballad, but morphs part way through into a mid-tempo number with gospel inflections. Another song, ‘Nobody could take your place’, cannot make its mind up whether it wants to be a shuffling disco number, or a quality ballad, but listening to it veer in one direction and then the opposite is an entertaining few minutes. The album was noteworthy for the inclusion of a ballad duet with guest female vocalist and Sharon Page performs admirably with Teddy. A lovely wah-wah guitar plus percussion intro leads into a stunningly cool Philly International terrain, and this is a precursor of sorts to the soul two-stepper classic, ‘Two hearts’, from 1981 with Stephanie Mills.

Not quite on a par with ‘Black and Blue’, which had ‘The love I lost’ and ‘If you don’t need me by now’, but pretty fine for all that. Excellent photos and graphics of the various single releases and full marks to BBR for including the original liner notes as well as a detailed update on the album and career of the band from writer/journalist Christian John Wikane.

Tim Stenhouse