The Temprees – From the Heart
Point 3 Records
11 tracks/ minutes
The past few years have been very good ones for soul music, especially for the community that revolves around Stax Records. William Bell, one of Stax’s original stars who put the label on the map with his “You Don’t Miss Your Water” (1961), won a Grammy for This is Where I Live. Harking back to the grittiness and beauty of early soul, Memphis’ Southern Avenue released a self-titled album on Stax, bringing a searing groove back to the label.
Part of the original community at Stax, The Temprees return now with their own mellow, soothing, and soulful album. Following the death of one of the group’s original singers, Jasper “Jabo” Phillips, in 2001, they took some time off from recording and touring. A couple of years ago, new member Walter “Bo” Washington joined original members Deljuan “Del” Calvin and Harold “Scotty” Scott to put together an album that not only captures the fabled sound of the group but also gratefully and joyously celebrates love and life. There’s a persistent joy on the album that writhes its way into our souls.
The group delivers a thank-you note to its fans on the album’s title track and opening song. The lush piano and soothing horns of Philly soul provide the tasteful layers on which the singers spread their luscious vocals. The singers welcome their fans back in the very first line, but then go on to acknowledge their deep gratitude for everyone who’s followed them over the years before declaring: “Everything we do, for you, right from the start/is from the heart/you were always there and you showed us you care/we hope these songs we share with you/take the clouds away/and give you love and inspiration each and every day.” On “We Do the Music,” The Temprees pay homage to their musical heritage, to their musical neighborhood (they grew up around not far from the legendary Soulsville USA, studios in Memphis), and to the future of music. Urging that “this is where we come from/don’t ever lose it/we got to keep the rhythm strong,” the group calls out the names of singers Carla Thomas, Otis Redding, the Bar-kays, and Isaac Hayes as the ones who led the way. They acknowledge, though, that the “world has changed and so has it sound/ we like the vibe that’s being put down.” With blaring horns and screaming keys, the song recalls Kool and the Gang, and keeps us dancing to that strong rhythm.
“Keep It Real” opens with a groove reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s later work, like “What’s Goin’ On?” and, like Gaye’s songs, this is a song with a message: “together we can make a change/in our hearts/where do we start?/don’t break the law/don’t pretend/let’s stick together/and we win.” The Temprees urge us to search out the love in our hearts, to care for each other, and to “make peace and love throughout the land” and to “spread some sunshine everywhere.” “Say Goodbye” captures the bittersweet act of parting with a lover, while “Paparazzi” channels the funky groove of George Clinton and even Prince. The group delivers a loving tribute to Maurice White on their version of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Reasons,” penned by White and Phillip Bailey.
The Temprees’ album lives up to its title, delivering joyous soul music from their hearts to ours; it’s good to have them back, making their own strong contribution to the deep pool of soul music pouring over us today.