The Whispers ‘One For The Money’ / ‘Open Up Your Love’ / ‘Headlights’ 2CD (Robinsongs) 4/5

Far less well known to more general soul fans, this trio of albums are among the jewels in the crown of the Whispers back catalogue and feature a modern soul classic that is regularly showcased by none other than DJ extraordinaire, Mr. Richard Searling. First off is the 1976 offering, ‘One for the money’. This is produced by none other than Norman Harris and has The Philadelphia International imprint all over it. It is interesting to reflect that had the Whispers continued in this vein, they could have given The O’Jays a late run for their money. The title track is one lovely tune and with all the trademark Philly classy production of strings and brass. Something of a northern soul feel permeates, ‘Got a feeling’, while the ballad, Living together (in sin)’ bears a strong resemblance to, ‘The closer I get to you’. What is clear is that at this early juncture, the Whispers had yet to establish their own distinctive identity. A year later and a change of sound with co-producers, Dick Griffin and Don Cornelius. A remake of the pop hit, ‘Make it with you’, is embellished with some gorgeous horn arrangements over a propelling disco beat. Why was this never a major hit first time round? Ripe for a revival. Corny piccolo sounds cannot take away from what morphs into a delicious mid-tempo groove on, ‘Love is a dream’, while an entirely different side to the band is displayed on the soul-blues influenced, ‘Open up to your love’, with the lead vocalist definitely sounding akin to the late great Johnnie Taylor. However, the best is reserved for last, and, ‘Headlines’ from 1978 is a candidate for the greatest Whispers album ever made. The classy mid-tempo, ‘(Olivia) lost and turned out’, is equalled by the epic group harmonies of, ‘Let’s go all the way’, a bona fide modern soul classic, complete with bongos, strings and terrific vocal ad-libs. A third wonderful slice of soul comes in, ‘The planets of life’, which is another favourite of this writer. Informative sleeve notes courtesy of Christian John Wikane. This is most definitely a re-issue connoisseurs of modern soul should not miss out on.

Tim Stenhouse