The Stylistics


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 ()

- James Dunn -- baritone 

- Airron Love -- tenor 

- Herb Murrell -- baritone 

- James Smith -- bass 

- Russell Thompkins Jr. -- lead vocals 

- Raymond Thompson -- bass (replaced James Smith)

  (1982-)

 

 

- The Monarchs (James Dunn and Herb Murrell)

- The Percussion (Airron Love, James Smith and Russell

  Thompkins Jr.)

 

 

 


 

Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Round 2

Company: AVCO

Catalog: AV-11006-598

Year: 1972

Country/State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original AVCO inner sleeve; minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4564

Price: $8.00

Cost: $66.00

 

All hyperbole aside, 1972's "Round 2" has to be considered one of the shining moments of mid-1970s soul.  Produced, conducted, arranged and largely written by Thom Bell (with Linda Creed getting co-writing credits on most of the ten tracks), the group's sophomore set proved a creative and commercial blockbuster.  Propelled by Russell Tompkin's instantly recognizable tenor and the cream of Sigma Studios sessions players, there simply wasn't a bad song on the set. Even the two MOR covers were stunning good - their take on Carole King's 'It's Too Late' was actually better than the original, while Thompkins and company managed to overcome Burt Bachrach and Hal David's penchant for sappiness on 'You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart)'.  Personal favorite - the atypical up tempo 'Pieces'.  As mentioned before, the album proved a commercial bonanza, spinning off three top-40 hits for the group:

 

- 1972's 'I'm Stoned In Love with You' b/w 'Make It Last' (AVCO catalog number AV-4603)

- 1973's 'Break Up To Make Up' b/w 'You and Me' (AVCO catalog number AV-4611)

- 1973's 'You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart)' b/w 'If You Don't Watch Out' (AVCO catalog number AV-4618)

 

Bottom line, it just doesn't get much better than this !!!  A classic album that no soul (or pop) fan should be without. (Always wondered about the different covers.  Most copies have the two fists super imposed over the globe.  Is this an early pressing, or a latter version?)

 

"Round 2" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) I'm Stoned In Love with You   (Thom Bell - Anthony Bell - Linda Creed) - 3:22

2.) If You Don't Watch Out   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed) - 2:37

3.) You and Me   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed) - 2:46

4.) It's Too Late   (Carole King - Toni Stern) - 4:23

5.) Children of the Night   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed) - 7:04

 

(side 2)
1.) You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart)   (Burt Bacharach - Hal David) - 3:40

2.) Break Up To Make Up   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed - Kenny Gamble) - 4:02

3.) Peek-a-Boo  (G. Guess - N. Knox) - 2:56

4.) You're As Right As Rain   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed) - 3:49

5.) Pieces   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed) - 3:13

 

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Rockin' Roll Baby

Company: AVCO

Catalog: AV-11010-598

Year: 1973

Country/State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original AVCO inner sleeve; minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 307

Price: $10.00

 

I guess it was only natural that after producing and writing much of the material for two killer albums for The Stylistics, Thom Bell and writing partner Linda Creed would start to run out of creative steam.  Mind you, by any standard 1973's "Rockin' Roll Baby" was another impressive collectiont, but amidst the hits and classic tunes, the collection showed a couple of frayed edges.  Interesting, perhaps the biggest problem came from the group's very successes.  By this time, powered by Russell Thompkins Jr.'s silky smooth voice, The Stylistics had established a highly distinctive sound.  More than most of their contemporaries, The Stylistics were wedded to hyper-smooth ballads and anything that strayed too far from those stomping groups put them at risk to running afoul of finicky audiences.   At the same time, their material was beginning to sound like retreads ...   how many silky smooth ballads does it take before an audience is bored ?   Exemplified by material like 'Could This Be the End', 'Pay Back Is a Dog', 'Love Comes Easy' and 'There's No Reason' there were enough first rate tunes to get them through this set with flying colors, but most folks would agree this was the last classic Stylistics set ...  It also marked the end of Thom Bell's association with the group.

 

A shade under the caliber of the first two albums, but still very much worth owning !!!   Powered by the hits, the parent album hit # 66 on the pop charts and # 5 on the R&B charts.

 

"Thank You Baby" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Only for the Children   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed) - 4:38   rating: *** stars

I always loved the upbeat opening segment, the jittery trumpet, and the soap opera-ish lyric on this one ...  Unfortunately, the song then sort of lost its way.  It was instantly recognizable as a Stylistics track, but this time around writers Bell and Creed failed to nail one of those incideously catchy hooks.  That left Russell Thompkins Jr. and company struggling to fight their way through the song.

2.) Could This Be the End   (Joseph B. Jefferson - Bruce Hawes - Charles Simmons) - 4:09  rating: **** stars

Written by a group better known for their work with The Spinners, to my ears 'Could This Be the End' was one of The Stylistics' more sophisticated songs and arrangements ...   A bit slow off the mark, but when it got going this was a classic Stylistics tune that probably should have been tapped as a single.   

3.) Let Them Work It Out   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed) - 3:58  rating: **** stars

I'll readily admit that when these songs originally came out I frequently overlooked the emotional depth associated with many of them ...  'Let Them Work It Out' was a perfect example with Bell and Creed crafting a song that took a subtle swipe at the gossip monger in all of us.  One of their prettier melodies too boot.  

4.) Make It Last   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed) - 2:59   rating: *** stars

Classic Stylistics sound, but a 'Make It Last' found Bell and Creed steering them awfully close to elevator music ... 

5.) Pay Back Is a Dog   (Thom Bell - Kenny Gamble) - 4:31  rating: **** stars

The title seemed to promise a change of pace for the group, but no, 'Pay Back Is a Dog' was a standard Stylistics ballad ...   Admittedly they turned the title into a killer hook that you simply can't shake.  (Urban legend has it that Bell and Gamble wanted the title to be 'Pay Back Is a Bitch' but decided it was too risky.)  

 

(side 2)
1.) Love Comes Easy
   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed) - 4:58  rating: **** stars

A classic Bell-Creed composition, 'Love Comes Easy' added a mild jazzy flavor to their patented sound.  The results were stunning.    

2.) There's No Reason  (Joseph B. Jefferson - Bruce Hawes - Charles Simmons) - 3:58  rating: **** stars

With a breezy melody, harpsihord (I'm a sucker for the sound), and  a hyper-catchy refrain, 'There's No Reason' was another one of those songs that would have made a dandy single.  

3.) Rockin' Roll Baby   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed) - 4:27  rating: **** stars

Say what you will, 'Rockin' Roll Baby' was a major change in direction for the group. The funny thing is the group apparently realized they needed to try something different, specifically asking Thom Bell and Linda Creed to craft an up-tempo number for them.   Yeah, it retrospect it was a bit too cutesy, but I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking it was great.   It was tapped as the album's leadoff single: 

- 1973's 'Rockin' Roll Baby' b/w 'Pieces' (AVCO catalog number AV 4625) # 14 pop; # 3 R&B

 

YouTube has a clip of them lip synching the track on Soul Train:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WCZEwagEXs  

4.) You Make Me Feel Brand New   (Thom Bell - Linda Creed) - 5:20  rating: **** stars

The Coral sitar made this one instantly recognizable, as did the fact Airrion Love finally got a chance to showcase his attractive baritone voice  (Love and Thompkins Jr. shared lead vocals).   Creed apparently began writing the song when she got engaged, feeling it was one of her best lyrics.  Bell was less than impressed, feeling the song was way too religious and initially refusing to record it.  Creed's father prevailed on Bell to give the song a chance and he eventually relented.  One of their all time biggest hits ...   The album's second single: 

- 1974's 'You Make Me Feel Brand New' b/w 'Only for the Children' (AVCO catalog number AV 4634) # 2 pop; # 5 R&B

YouTube has a clip of the group doing the song on Soul Train:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu1Ezr1YEoY  

 

5.) I Won't Give You Up   (Joseph B. Jefferson - Bruce Hawes - Charles Simmons) - 3:38  rating: **** stars

Perhaps because it avoided the cutesy factor in the title track (plus it had some fuzz guitar), the up-tempo 'I Won't Give You Up' has always been a personal favorite.  One of the album's forgotten treasures ...

 

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Thank You Baby

Company: AVCO

Catalog: AV-69008

Year: 1975

Country/State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): VG+//VG+

Comments: 

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4563

Price: $8.00

Cost: $66.00

 

 

All good things must come to an end and The Stylistics string of creative and commercial success started to rapidly decline with the release of 1975's "Thank You Baby".  With long standing producer Thom Bell no longer working with the group, Hugo Creatore and Luigi Peretti were brought in as replacements, with Van McCoy handling arrangements.  The combination may have looked good on paper, but in practice it was pretty much a disaster.  Penned by Creatore, Peretti and George David Weiss, material such as the title track, 'Can't Give You Anything (But My Love) and 'I'd Rather Be Hurt By You (Than Be Loved By Someone Else)' simply wasn't very strong.  With the exception of the goofy 'Honky Tonk Cafe' and the up tempo 'I'm Gonna Stay', Thompkins and company seemed uninspired by the songs.  For goodness sale, they even made Herb Murrell waste his nice voice handling the lead on an awful disco song ('Disco Baby').  Not a proud moment in The Stylistics' catalog ...

 

"Thank You Baby" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Thank You Baby   (Hugo Creatore - Luigi Peretti - George David Weiss) - 3:43

2.) Can't Give You Anything (But My Love)   (Hugo Creatore - Luigi Peretti - George David Weiss) - 3:13

3.) What Goes Around Comes Around   (Hugo Creatore - Luigi Peretti - George David Weiss) - 3:09

4.) I'd Rather Be Hurt By You (Than Be Loved By Someone Else)   (Hugo Creatore - Luigi Peretti - George David Weiss) - 3:38

5.) Disco Baby   (Hugo Creatore - Luigi Peretti - George David Weiss) - 3:15

 

(side 2)
1.) Tears and Souvenirs   (Hugo Creatore - Luigi Peretti - George David Weiss) - 4:07

2.) A Honky Tonk Cafe   (Hugo Creatore - Luigi Peretti - George David Weiss) - 3;30

3.) I'm Gonna Win   (Hugo Creatore - Luigi Peretti - George David Weiss) - 4:16

4.) Stay   (Hugo Creatore - Luigi Peretti - George David Weiss) - 3:04

5.) Sing Baby Sing   (Hugo Creatore - Luigi Peretti - George David Weiss) - 2:50

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Hurry Up This Way Again

Company: TSOP

Catalog: JZ-36470

Year: 1980

Country/State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4866

Price: $10.00

 

With late-1970s popular tastes having rendered old school soul out of fashion,   The Stylistics would seem to have been up the proverbial creative and commercial creek.  To their credit, the group still had a couple of tricks up their collective sleeves, including getting Philadelphia International's TSOP subsidiary to sign them to a contract. 

 

Under the Gamble-Huff umbrella 1980's "Hurry Up This Way Again" sought to blend the group's patented moves with Philly International's instantly recognizable pseudo disco-ish sound.  To be honest, the results were somewhat mixed.  On upbeat, dance-oriented tracks such as 'Driving Me Wild' and 'It Started Out' Russell Thompkins Jr.'s falsetto simply wasn't a great match for pounding dance beats and the usually Philly International production touches (female backing choruses, heavy orchestration).  Among the few exceptions where the blend worked were the pensive title track (very nice) and the bouncy 'Found a Love You Couldn't Handle'.  In contrast big ballads like the gorgeous 'And I'll See You No More', 'Maybe It's Love This Time' and 'I Have You, You Have Me' were far closer to the group's famous sound and past glories, but by the same token were simply out of tune with contemporary tastes. TSOP also tapped the album for a couple of singles which returned the group to the R&B charts.

 

- 1980's 'Hurry Up Tis Way Again' b/w 'It Started Out' (TSOP catalog number ZS9-4789 # 18 R&B

- 1980's 'And I'll See You No More' b/w 'Driving Me Wild' (TSOP catalog number ZS9-4798) # 70 R&B

 

"Hurry Up This Way Again" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Driving Me Wild   (Cynthia Biggs - C. Gilbert - Ted Wortham) - 4:53

2.) And I'll See You No More   (Russell Thompkins - R. Johnson) - 3:42

3.) Found a Love You Couldn't Handle   (S. Marshall - J. Ingram - B. Ingram) - 4:36

4.) Maybe It's Love This Time  (J.B. Jefferson - R. Roebuck - C.B. Simmons) - 

 

(side 2)
1.) Hurry Up This Way Again   (Cynthia Biggs - Dexter Wansel) - 5:53

2.) It Started Out   (D. Brown - J. Bryant - T. Price - D. Jordan) - 4:30

3.) I Have You, You Have Me   (J. Gugliuzza) - 4:16

3.) It There Something On Your Mind   (D. Brown - T. Price - D. Jordan) - 4:15

 

 

 

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