Thursday, April 8, 2010

classic: Ship Ahoy

"Now that we've found love, what are we gonna do?"
The demand for album-oriented production in the early seventies had a profound effect on Motown, classic soul, and R&B. While countless acts continued to rely heavily on singles and radio airplay, a few groups took a note or two from prominent rock and folk artists. The Temptations, under the new direction of Norman Whitfield, issued a handful of albums with a more cohesive premise (Cloud Nine, Puzzle People, Psychedelic Shack) drawing countless new fans who otherwise might not have noticed. Thirteen years after forming, Ohio natives The O'Jays released their major label debut in 1972, Back Stabbers, and earned national attention and critical praise. The title track and "Time To get Down" were major hits, and "Love Train" is still played in bars and bar-mitzvahs alike. Back Stabbers put Philadelphia International on the map. However is was their follow-up, Ship Ahoy, that is often overlooked and publicly underrated.

Today, Ship Ahoy is probably best remembered for the single "For the Love of Money" (the theme song from The Apprentice). Like many artists coming off a major success, the group decided to focus on social issues, from racism to greed and most notably, slavery. The album cover features images of half-naked slaves, and the epic title song begins with the sounds of slave ships (breaking waves, creaking wood, and the rhythmic sound of a whip). As the whip fades, an equally rhythmic 2-note bassline takes its place as the rest of the instrumentation slowly emerges, all culminating with an epic vocal barrage. Every track is memorable but other highlights include "Now That We've Found Love" and the super-laid-back nine minute blues ballad "Don't Call Me Brother."

The O'Jays - Don't Call Me Brother

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