Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Temptations - "Wings Of Love" (1976)


We're here today to reclaim half of this forgotten record for funk history, but first of all, here's a story while you listen to the fat slapping bassline in the track above (turn it up loud and add a little bass for story emphasis) ....

There's a fascinating sequence in the "Make It Funky" episode of the great 1996 documentary series "Dancing In The Street", where the interviewer decides to trace back the origin of the classic funk bass slap - that's where the bassplayer's thumb slaps the lower octave, and another plucks the octave above - if that's too technical for you, just know that it's the centrepiece of the 70s funk sound.

The interviewer speaks to all the major bass players of the period, asking each who they'd first heard making that sound. He works his way back through Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham and others, and finally the trail ends at Rustee Allen of Sly and the Family Stone.

They cut to a surprised-looking Rustee - and from memory he's in a tuxedo, getting ready to play for a functions band in an empty bar somewhere, glory days long behind.

Rustee Allen

Anyway, that's Rustee, inventor of the slap bass, funking it up in the track preview above, and it looks like he's back on the trail now. So let's drop back into a pivotal moment in the Temptations' history ...


When writer/producer/arranger Norman Whitfield removed his brilliance from Motown; switched the company's logo upside down and formed Whitfield Records, he left the his main band the Temptations behind. Before this, he'd sometimes used his "other" band The Undisputed Truth as a testing ground ground for his epic, orchestral psychedelic tracks, then perfected the same tracks to great success on the Temptations' releases ... but after the final flourish of the Temptations' 1973 album "1990", with Rose Royce and the Funk Brothers laying the base for the psychedelic funk, he was gone.

Motown then attached producer Jeffrey Bowen to the band (with label head Berry Gordy in tow). Although he'd produced the band's 1967 album "In a Mellow Mood" under Frank Wilson's tutelage, the choice of Bowen was more likely predicated by his production of Chairmen of the Board's "Skin I'm In" from 1973. With a team comprised of Funkadelic members, that interesting album effectively took the sweet soul group into a dark psych-funk state that referenced the sort of work Norman Whitfield was doing at the time, and had included a take on Sly Stone's "Life and Death".

The new team came up with the surprisingly successful album "A Song For You", featuring the funky singles "Happy People" and "Shakey Ground" (also covered by ReneƩ Geyer on her live album). Backing for the funk tracks was provided by a few P-Funkers and some members of the Commodores, for whom Bowen had just done some tight work on "Machine Gun".

1975's "House Party" was essentially an album of leftovers, changing producers on almost every track, then Bowen's team re-assembled in 1976 for "Wings Of Love", today's album.


Bowen went for a two-way bet on this album. Side One, the funky side, used several members of Sly and the Family Stone. This is the good side, and the reason I'm posting this album. "Sweet Gypsy Jane" opens with a 1-2-3-4 shout and a powerhouse vocal from Dennis Edwards. The single "Up The Creek Without a Paddle" failed to dent the charts too much, but is the equal to any dirty 70s Sly track. Likewise, "China Doll" and "Sweetness in The Dark" could come from a Family Stone album.

As good as some of these tracks are, these were apparently unhappy sessions, with Bowen heavily favouring singer Dennis Edwards over the other Temptations in the mix, and it would be the last album he produced for them.

I'm holding the cover of this record, and the weirdest thing is that the names of the Temptations themselves do not even appear on the credits (I've added them below) - this, more than anything, shows how the "idea" of the Temptations had been reduced to that of a brand for producers to place their stamp on. Later in the year they would rebel and mainly write 'The Temptations Do The Temptations" themselves, and then leave Motown for a few years.


The three tracks on Side Two are a different story altogether - it's essentially a psych-prog-concept production by keyboardist/arranger Donald Baldwin. Imagine Elton John waking up after a bad batch of drugs, trying to channel Brian Wilson via an army of mellotrons and synths, and creating a failed rock opera ...

Baldwin had scored well before with producer Bowen, arranging the aforementioned Chairmen of the Board's "Skin I'm In" from 1973, a much harder-edged affair. Bowen had taken him on to "A Song For You", on which he'd co-written a few tracks and played several instruments.

Here, however, he seems to have been handed an entire side of the record on a platter, and come up with a concept suite that has little to do with the Temptations or their particular talents. It may have been an attempt to re-capture some of the epic qualities of Norman Whitfield's productions - but unlike this, Whitfield had always managed to keep the funk within the darkness of his grand-scale storytelling.


Did Sly Stone write most of Side A and play keyboards ?

Wikipedia has (very) recently said yes, it's Sly, but as we all know Wikipedia publishes any old crap that you throw at it, so let's look at it a little more closely ....

The rationale/rumour from a few sources goes as follows : Sly Stone had tax problems at the time, having gone bankrupt in late '75 after finishing "High On You", and so gave his writing and playing credits on Side A of this album - see below - to Truman Thomas. (There's a few suggestions that he used Jimmy Ford as an alias but that's pretty easily discounted).

So who's Truman Thomas? He's a well-regarded organist, with a 1967 solo album; he played keyboards on Aretha's "Live at the Fillmore West" and "Aretha Arrives"; played organ on most early 70s Isley Brothers albums like "3 + 3" and "Live It Up", and co-wrote the much-recorded track "You're Welcome, Stop On By" with Bobby Womack.

So Truman's clearly a strong enough contender to have been a major writer on these tracks - yet .... those keyboards do sound like Sly.

Probably a more compelling argument and rationale for Thomas being an alias here for Sly is that later in the year, producer Bowen and most of the Family Stone took part in the album"Rose" by Rose Banks, Sly Stone's sister.

It's been suggested that Sly's "Wings Of Love" participation may have been some sort of tradeoff for Motown producing his sister's album. She covers his track "I Get High On You" , but then there are several tracks with Truman Thomas listed as a writer. This is the one that swings the argument for me anyway - if the rest of his band is there, surely he would have taken part in his sister's debut album?

Nevertheless, hours of google work maintain that the truth will always probably remain a mystery - Sly was so loaded by this point that he probably doesn't remember himself. His withdrawal from the public eye from the early 80s onwards - at a time where he was clearly starting to lose it, but could still cut it - made him into a mythical figure. I remember an early 90s doco called "The Search For Sly Stone" - which I can't seem to find online - where a european filmmaker unsuccessfully tried to track him down, dealing with an army of people who'd insist that Sly was "in the studio" at a time where he was more likely dribbling in a sandpit somewhere ...

Sly at George Clinton's birthday party, July 22, 2008

That said, I've been fascinated in tracking Sly's gradual and unexpected re-emergence over the last two years - from his erratic appearances last year in places like San Jose and the North Sea Jazz Festival (better recording) : 1 -2 - 3, to New York last December, to handling interviews earlier this year- the impression is of someone gradually waking up.

Anyway ... Sly or no Sly, I hope you enjoy this slice of funk.


01. ‘Sweet Gypsy Jane’
02. ‘Sweetness In The Dark’
03. ‘Up The Creek (Without A Paddle)’
04. ‘China Doll’
05. ‘Mary Ann’
06. ‘Dream World (Wings Of Love)’
07. ‘Paradise’

Tracks 1, 3, 4 written by - Jeffrey Bowen , Jimmy Ford , Truman Thomas (could be Sly Stone)
Track 2 written by
Jeffrey Bowen , Jimmy Ford
Tracks 5, 6, 7 written By - Donald Baldwin


Vocals - Dennis Edwards, Glenn Leonard, Richard Street, Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams
Clavinet, Organ, Arp Synthesizer, Horn and string arrangements - Truman Thomas (could be Sly Stone)
Bass - William "Billy Bass" Nelson , Freddie Stewart , Rustee Allen
Drums, Percussion - Ollie E. Brown
Guitar - William "Billy Bass" Nelson , Freddie Stewart
Synthesizer [Moog Programming], Keyboards, - Donald Baldwin
Trumpet - Pat Rizzo , Steve Madaio


Gordy Records, Catalog #: G6-971S1
Released Mar 1976
Executive Producer -
Berry Gordy
Producers -
Jeffrey Bowen and Berry Gordy
Vocal and Rhythm arrangements - Donald Baldwin
Art Direction - Frank Mulvey
Cover Illustration - David McMackin
Assistant Engineers - Jack Andrews , Jane Clark
Mixing engineer - Jeffrey Bowen
Recording, Mastering, Mixing Engineer - Russ Terrana

Published by Stone Diamond Music Corp. BMI
A product of Motown Record Corp.

"Wings of Love" - my own vinyl rip to WAV and MP3 @ 320kbps.

Other album links in this post go to :

Fullundie, Dr Okeh’s And It Don’t Stop 1, And it Don’t Stop 2, Rarin' to Go, Groove With You, La Magie de la Funk, Awangarda, Funky16Corners, Beyazgemi.

Please thank and support these bloggers if you click through and download.



JTF said...

You are like a funk/jazz detective!

Simon666 said...

Hopefully I get a uniform with that :)

allan said...

thanks much

Flashlight said...

Fantastic post Simon, many thanks

Mark said...

Thanks for the great posts and especially for all of the research.

Dr. Johnny Fever said...

Hey Simon, it's funny, I was just listening to this Temps record the other day and was debating with my buddy if Sly was indeed a part of the session. Strange......I guess somethings Sly will always remain a mystery. Anyways, nice post of one of overlooked funk bombs in the Motown catalog. Keep up the good sleuth work.

Peace...........Dr. Fever

cheeba said...

WTF? This was the first Temps 70s record I bought as a youngster. Ive puled it out here and there over te years but always preferred the Whitfield years. Never gave the LP much thought amd had no idea of the fascinating back story... Great read!

Also noticed Sly poking his head out here and there recently. Crossing my fingers he makes it!

Simon666 said...

Same here Cheeba - I came across a few of the Sly references when researching something else, then pulled out the old album for a listen. While most of the post-Whitfield albums are crap, I do think both this one and "Song For You" have some great funk tracks ..

cheeba said...

Case in point: Up The Creek :-)

Musicmeiho said...

WHEW~~ Quite the story!!

ish said...

I had cut the Temps off with "1990". I'm looking forward to having my mind opened. Thanks so much, Simon.


Thanks for this great share!

Doctor Okeh said...

great up , I'm pretty sure I have this one on vinyl myself , imma have to dig around...

Doctor Okeh said...

ok , I was trippin I guess , mabey it was one that was stolen from my original collection , so it'll be super sweet to have it at least in digital form , many thx Simon!!!!!

RG_one said...

thank you

alex-soul & jazz said...

hi simon,
many thanks for sharing a great album!
one that i had again forgotten about!
cool !

Gianni said...

thank you, simon.
always perfect!

mr.gone said...

Thanks for the post. From the opening bars I knew I needed this!

Keep it real!


Larry said...

Thanks for this superb post. Awesome.

Gorgon Jr said...

Fascinating Backstory and great detective work!

really interesting stuff and can't wait for a listen.


Simon666 said...

Thanks for the comments guys :)

anyathar said...

thanks a lot simon - looking forward to listening to this, as i have never had it and would never have known about the sly connection had you not posted... another excellent post, even though i don't always download everything (spotty internet in these parts), your style of posting is unmatched!

Anonymous said...

brilliant freaking post! that is some deep knowledge, friend.

CB said...

what a wonderful & rare lp/ many thanks. cb

ng2000 said...

Valuable resource of temptations news summaries:

Simon666 said...

thanks for that ng2000

Christopher said...

If it quacks like a duck...
That's definitely Sly running down those arrangements.
Thanks for the up.
Funkishbass said...

Thanks for the post!

maggotronix said...

thanks so much for what you do

come said...

thanx million.
you have another THE MAN's HOT stuff?


Simon666 said...

Hi guys,
Mediafire link deleted due to leeching by the assholes at Bentleyfunk. Others still active.

CJS said...

Aren't they tiresome little c**ts?
I asked some other leech, BeeQ, to delete an album the artist is still selling and he told me to f*ck off, in a really nice way, even after I explained I'm personally involved and it's within his guidelines.
And another blogger stormed in to his defense.
Astounding fuckknuckles.
May the boys who leech start bleeding from their asses like the guys who fucking pay studio time and print copies and have boxes lying around for their 2 years hard work.
All the best
And hi from JackP who's on a long holiday

Simon666 said...

Yesterday they re-posted 14 albums from Ile Oxumare, all vinyl rips, days of work reduced to a 2 minute copy-paste. We went off at them in the shoutbox, now they're 'punishing' me by reposting my albums there. There's no real love of music there at all.

CJS said...

And just like all the seedy pricks that dwell on the fringes of the music scene, they'll get bored and wander off one day.
Yes, there is love for music out there.
But the cowboys... oh the fkg cowboys!
To all these stupid c**nts of the mild frontier I say: "May your nerdy leeching bodies one day suffer through a difficult marriage and long drawn out divorce. May your recovery be fueled by drugs and a voracious STI. May you lose your reputation, quite a few friends and vast networks of brain cells. Because that's the REAL MUSIC SCENE you little cockroaches. Because NO ONE is talking about you because you have talent. That dignity is RESERVED. We're talking about you because you're just hangers-on. Cheap bastards and time-wasting weirdoes. You will touch no one with your work because it is not your work. And because it is not your work it touches no one."
Cheers Simon, you know what I'm talking about.
Fuck em royally (can I say that? Oh, I think I did.)
And if this comment offends you blogger leech out there, before you feel a reply coming on, while you're writing it, I'll be on stage somewhere making people react to my work and will enjoy the applause.
Get along little dawgy.

Steve said...

Old post I know, but I read the first bit about the origin of slap bass and felt the need to comment. I cant recall seeing rustee allen in the make it funky episode (and Ive watched that quite a few times). I also remember larry graham being recognized as the inventor of slap bass in that documentary. Maybe youve got them mixed up?... Or maybe Ive got them mixed up...?

troods said...

Looooove this album, had it made into a cd which then disappeared. Dammit. And here you are, so giving and generous (I'm serious). Thank you for making it available and for the history portion. Peace & blessings.

Simon666 said...

You're welcome Troods :)

Cody B said...

In doing some research on Jeffrey Bowen, I happened on this excellent post..thank you.

Nixon said...

thanks man....your post has been a big help for me...thank you very much..

Globalism said...

A Gil Scott-Heron trawl led to this post. Amazing detective work and dedication to high quality music blogging here Simon!

Simon666 said...

Thanks Cody B, Nixon and Globalism for the comments :)

jazztech said...

Hey Simon666. Man you've got some jams up in here! I'm new to your blog and think it will take me at least a year or so to go through so many of your groovin posts! Are you sure Rustee Allen was the inventor of the slap bass? Actually it was Larry Graham of Sly & the Family Stone. Who was with the group from 1966 to 1972. He developed and learned that technique when playing bass for his Mom's Jehovah Witness band trying to make up for not having a drummer. It was a pure 'necessity is the mother of invention' thang. Check it out.

And on 'A Song for You', standin on 'Shakey Ground', with Billy' Bass' Nelson was the killer and hit song. BBN was no slouch and could play his ass off. And from my 'experience' I don't know if RA was even in the same league with those two monster bass players. But everyone has their own preferences and that is what makes this bogging thing so damn cool.

Thanks for taking the TIME, EFFORT (and MONEY!) to bring us so much funk (music).

jazztech said...

And one more thing. I have heard of that story of Larry Graham being forced out too, but I never believed it. Larry Graham got tired of Sly being so coked out and not showing up for gigs.

Everybody, and I do mean everybody wanted Larry Graham in their band.

Not to mention Warner Brothers and many others record execs, knew Larry Graham was the 'sound' of Sly and The Family Stone.

jazztech said...

Hey Simon, check this link out. The picture quality is not that good, but you will get the idea.

Peace Brother.

jazztech said...

Simon, check this link out. S&TFS 1969. Execellent quality video.

Have a good weekend brother.

Anonymous said...

Tried to digitise my own lp, but your version is much better. Thanks!!

fuq said...

Simon--found your awesome site while on a Temps jag. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing Wings of Love! Definitely a Dennis Edwards feature. And one very funky side.
Must concur w/jazztech and Steve re: originator of slap bass. Larry Graham all the way, no disrespect to Rustee Allen. Rustee was 19 when he replaced Larry in Sly and the Family Stone. That's him on If You Want Me To Stay...and he also sounds great on this Temps LP!
Also, I would not dismiss the contributions of Jim Ford to this album. Great songwriter and pal of Sly. I remember reading an interview w/him where he mentioned writing for this Temps album. If you don't know his stuff, check out the album "Harlan County"

Captain Dan said...

So cool, Simon... this is one of the ones I'd been hoping you'd re-post. I found this on your blog several years ago and enjoyed reading the comments, but the links were dead at the time.

Thanks for the re-up... huge Temps fan here... can't wait to hear this "latter period" LP of theirs and to see if I can spot Sly in the mix!!