Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Albums of 1970: The Temptations: Psychedelic Shack

Release Date: March 6, 1970

Personnel: Dennis Edwards, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams

Lyrics and Composition: Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong

Instrumentation: The Funk Brothers

Produced by Norman Whitfield

Side 1: Psychedelic Shack; You Make Your Heaven or Hell Right Here on Earth; Hum Along and Dance; Take a Stroll Thru Your Mind

Side 2: It's Summer; War; You Need Love like I do (don't you); Friendship Train

The 12th album by The Temptations continued their cycle of psychedelic soul records which began with their 1969 album Cloud Nine. Full of good vibes with an eye towards a better future, there's an optimism propelling the album along.

"Psychedelic Shack" opens the album, imagining a place where creativity and peace flourish in the midst of the mayhem of the outside world, getting the record off to a rousing start. "You Make Your Heaven or Hell Right Here on Earth" offers a simple message, we get to choose how we live. Everyone has a choice:

You and your beliefs
Are the weights
The things you do each day
Determine the balance

"Hum Along and Dance" is an instrumental inviting everyone to join in. "Take a Stroll Thru Your Mind" is a standout track. A sonic journey of doo wop, soul, and psychedelia - their 1965 hit "My Girl" is even referenced.

The album's single "It's Summer" recalls an early Temptations song, smoothly produced with some wonderful harmonies. "War" would become an anthem of the era, becoming a number one hit for Motown artist Edwin Starr in June of 1970. 

"You Need Love Like I Do" never quite takes off like the other tracks, but "Friendship Train" continues the theme of unity and friendship - the only forces that can save the world. Your heart just has to be in the right place.

Psychedelic Shack offers up Utopian visions but never shies away from the realities of 1970, the sound and style have aged well.

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