The Whispers: One For The Money/Open Up Your Love/Headlights (Robinsongs)

Los Angeles-based R&B group The Whispers have had a long but relatively humble career in terms of charting hits. While they would reach the mainstream Top 40 charts a time or two, their success was primarily on the R&B chart, where they enjoyed a nearly  three decades-long tenure that occasionally reached the top of the charts. Even more impressive is that they made the charts every single year between 1969 and 1997.  It’s not hard to understand why, either; between their up-tempo songs, their  gorgeous harmonies and tasteful arrangements, and their charming stage presence,  they seem to naturally inclined to be beloved by R&B fans. Robinsongs’  new collection gathers three of their mid-1970s albums, just as their star was on the ascent with mainstream America.

Like many prolific R&B groups of the decade, they recorded and released albums at a very regular pace, resulting in material that very much stuck with one formula. 1976’s offering, One For The Money, was the  first of two albums for Don Cornelius’s Soul Train label.  It was a moderately successful album, thanks to the success  of the title track, but other songs such as the disco groove of “I’ve Got A Feeling”  and slow jam classics “In My Heart” and “Sounds Like A Love Song” help to make the album a delightful listen.  Open Up Your Love followed the next year, any was another moderately successful album, thanks in part to a surprising but masterfully arranged disco/soul cover of the Bread hit “Make It With You,” which was a charting hit. The rest of the album offered up equally superb Numbers such as the mellow grooves of the title track, and the ballads “Chocolate Girl” and “You Are Number One” are hard to beat.

In 1978, they would transition to Solar Records,  a revamped version of their previous label, but with better distribution. Their debut album, Headlights, was a merely okay effort; it was not a bad album, but it didn’t seem much more than a rehash of the styles and sounds of there two previous albums. That’s not to say  it wasn’t without its charms––or hit singles, as “(Let’s Go) All The Way” and “(Olivia) Lost And Turned Out” we’re both quite successful. But the danger of adherence to a successful formula is ultimately becoming formulaic, which most definitely feels to be the case with headlight. Not a bad record, but not a particularly memorable one, either.

 

Thankfully, they would quickly break out of this creative rut. Their next few albums (three of which have also been reissued by Robinsongs on a two disc set) would find them exploring styles that would become influential over the next few decades. Their breakthrough hit in 1980, “And The Beat Goes On” would have a second life as  the melody of Will Smith’s hit single ”Miami,” while in 1987 they would score an  even bigger success with the funk classic “Rock Steady.” Even though the hits would soon taper out, they are still a touring band with a fantastic live show that features most of the original lineup. That success was built on these three delightful albums  that rank as some of the era’s finest soul music.

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