Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gladys Knight and the Pips Imagination 1973

Gladys Knight always had an absolutely super voice, and she filled every song with the right amount of feeling. After being woefully neglected at Motown, Gladys and the Pips landed at Budda for a string of albums in the seventies. This one is the bomb.

The record opens with Midnight Train To Georgia, and what do I need to say about that one. It's one of Gladys biggest hits, and for good reason. Great song, killer arrangement, and Glayds' vocal is, well, you've heard it. I've Got To Use My Imagination follows, and it's a driving soul rocker that cooks. Storms Of Troubled Times is a nice mid-tempo ballad that Gladys and the Pips sing the heck out of. The chorus is breathtaking, with Gladys wailing and cooing "If you need a hand that's strong and kind, reach out for mine, and I will lead you through the storms of troubled times". You feel taken care of.

Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me is another great love song sung and arranged perfectly. Once In A Lifetime Thing keeps the theme going, and if you aren't in love with Gladys by the end of side one, you're missing something that seems inescapable to me. Four of the songs are by Jim Weatherly, who wrote Midnight Train To Georgia, and while they are drenched in emotion, Gladys keeps every song from becoming too syrupy. The arrangements are big, but never too much (It is seventies soul, not gritty, but done to perfection).

Side two almost holds up the perfection of side one. Where Peaceful Waters Flow is another Weatherly gem, and it's strong with a slick arangement and more great singing. I Can See Clearly Now gets a nice treatment and features the Pips, which is fun. Perfect Love is a bit over the top in the sweet department. Window Raisin' Granny is a big, semi-funky production number that can easily be enjoyed despite the fairly lame lyric.

So side two isn't quite as strong as the first side. Of course in the days of vinyl, one perfect side was plenty. In my living room, it still is. This is a great slice of seventies soul, and one fine Gladys Knight record.

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