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Record Review


The Temptations' "Cloud Nine" fell from the sky with virtually no advance forecast. Released in October 1968, its buzzing wah-wah guitars, funky backbeat, bubbling percussion and drug-oriented lyrics were as stylistically removed from "My Girl" as Detroit was from Las Vegas, where many Motown acts frequently performed. But Cloud Nine, the debut studio album featuring vocalist David Ruffin's replacement Dennis Edwards, was just as much a showpiece for producer/auteur Norman Whitfield, who steered the group and their staid label into the psychedelic age.

Gone were the matching leisure suits and silky vocals. Instead, Edwards' gruff rasp, "hip" clothes and a daring nine-minute version of "Runaway Child, Running Wild" pushed the groove into freaky overdrive. With their cross-pollination of funk, soul and acid-tinged rock, the once-sedate Temps now influenced acknowledged trailblazers such as Sly Stone, George Clinton and James Brown. Whitfield's urban, socio-political lyrics and the rugged riff-based "Psychedelic Shack," "Ball of Confusion" and "Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down" blew out of both AM, and the more progressive FM, radio with equal intensity.

This double set includes everything of importance from the Temps/Whitfield collaboration, covering late 1968 through 1973. Although disc two eventually succumbs to the producer's egotistical long-form, wide-screen mini-operas such as the bloated 14-minute "Masterpiece," Psychedelic Soul remains an essential slab of pop music history.

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