Blessed: The Emotions Anthology 1969-1985
Big Break Records
By the end of the Sixties, soul music was coming into its own, setting itself up for mainstream acceptance and approval in the next decade. To be sure, there were superstars in the previous decade, but groups like The Temptations and The Four Tops were the exception to the rule, while others pop/soul acts were either just blossoming into mainstream awareness (The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder) or coming to an end (The Supremes). But a new wave was coming, one that blended Black culture with social consciousness, and by the end of the 1970s, soul music was more popular and more influential than ever, and the decade’s newest genres, funk and disco, would in turn lead to an even greater cultural influence in the Eighties.One of the finest groups of this era, The Emotions, would coast through this sea change, and produce some of the best music of the era. Big Break Records’ two disc anthology Blessed: The Emotions Anthology 1969-1985 is the first comprehensive retrospective of the trio, and it’s a fine set at that.
Like so many other soul groups, sisters Sheila, Wanda, and Jeannette Hutchinson began their singing career in church, and Pervis Staples, who had performed with the trio, encouraged them to consider performing and recording more pop-minded material. This they did, and though their earliest singles might not have been chart successes, they showed great promise; in 1969, “So I Can Love You” would perform quite well in the charts, going to 39 in the Billboard singles chart and to #3 in the R&B charts. Their follow-up, “The Best Part Of A Love Affair” didn’t reach the same heights, but it did begin a run of that would reach the Top 40 of the R&B charts. Over the next six years, they would release two albums, record a third album that would be shelved, and would release a slew of excellent singles that showed their amazing, impressive range, from the innocent, Motown-style innocent girl group number “From Toys To Boys,” the Southern soul of “Bind Alley” and “Special Part,” to the deep balladry of “Stealing Love” and “How Can You Stop Loving Someone.”
But it was producer Maurice White, the founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, who would usher in a new level of success for The Emotions. He would work with them on their debut album for Columbia Records, Flowers. Released in 1976, it found the trio heading into disco-minded waters, and the results were notable: their sound was now more in line with contemporary music, and both the album and its singles, “Flowers” and “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love” would be their highest charting records since their debut. Their next effort, Rejoice, would do even better, and the albums first single, “Best Of My Love,” would become not only their biggest hit and their signature song, but it would also become one of the defining songs of the era. It’s classic, timeless pop, with delicious harmonies and a catchy rhythm. But if “Best Of My Love” was a defining pop single, the band’s collaboration with Earth, Wind, & Fire on the song “Boogie Wonderland” would prove to be one of disco’s greatest hits. It’s a moving, grooving number that lives on in the playlists of disco nights and oldies stations alike.
Yet as disco faded out and morphed into new sounds and styles, The Emotions grew with the times, and late-period numbers such as the upbeat “All Night, Alright” and “You’re The Best” showed that they were still a powerhouse group, even if sales were modest compared to the previous records. But that’s one of the curses of being too definitive of a style; when the world moves on, so too do some listeners and radio stations. Though times and tastes changed, The Emotions kept making quality records until their eventual end in 1985, when the sisters decided to move onto other things, reuniting occasionally for live performances.
Blessed: The Emotions Anthology 1969-1985 is a fine document of this wonderful trio’s work, and taken chronologically, you can hear the maturation and growth of one of the finest soul/pop/disco/R&B/whatever groups of the 1970s.
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Categories: Album Reviews