Best Of The O'Jays 1976-1991

The O'Jays

The Right Stuff Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The greatest part of this job isn't necessarily getting the chance to talk to some of the stars of the industry (though that's a great perk); it's the joy of discovering an artist whose work I've admired for some time, but couldn't have named if my life depended on it.

Example: When I was growing up, there was a radio station in Chicago (which is long gone) that used to play what we'd now call adult contemporary, but was top 40 at the time. I used to hear the new cuts from Christopher Cross and the Alan Parsons Project - but occasionally I'd hear songs like "Use Ta Be My Girl," which gave me a reason to groove to the radio. But if I were asked who was singing that song, I'd sadly shrug my shoulders and say I didn't know.

A few weeks ago, what should arrive in the mail but my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Best Of The O'Jays 1976-1991. After a few minutes in the CD player and after listening to the first few tracks, it came on - "Use Ta Be My Girl"... the song I loved as a kid! So that's the artist!

Truth is, this collection of tracks from the Ohio-based trio (Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell - who left the group a year before his 1977 death - and Sammy Strain, Powell's replacement) is filled with songs that just might jar some memories loose in your head. Dare to complain about that, and the music will quiet any protests you may have.

I will admit that I don't have a vast knowledge of The O'Jays and their music - but truth be told, you don't have to in order to enjoy the music on this disc. From more recent hits like "Lovin' You" to the "forgotten" hits like "Message In Our Music," this is a disc that you probably won't want to turn off until the last note fades out.

Granted, a few tracks do show a little bit of age ("Message In Our Music"), but the bulk of this album still is quite enjoyable. Tracks like "Cry Together," "Girl, Don't Let It Get You Down," "Emotionally Yours" and "Forever Mine" all show why this group enjoyed such success in the R&B world (14 of the tracks on this CD hit the top 10 of the R&B charts). Even if this CD is an introduction to the music of The O'Jays for the listener, it's a great way to shake hands with their music.

What is surprising is that the bulk of the music on this disc doesn't sound, in some cases, more than 20 years old. This is a testament not only to the performance by the O'Jays, but to the songwriting (including the numerous works written by Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff).

A word of warning, though: This is not a complete "greatest hits" collection, nor does it pretend to be. Instead, it focuses on just the 15-year period, meaning such hits as "Backstabbers", "Love Train" and "I Love Music" aren't on this disc. In one way, this is a good thing, as it forces the listener to forget about the group's best-known songs, and opens their ears to tracks they might not otherwise have heard.

Best Of The O'Jays 1976-1991 is an excellent collection of tunes from a group that you probably know - and after listening to this disc, you won't want to ever forget.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-


I agree totally with Christopher on this album. I only give it a minus with the A because it doesn't include the earlier hits. You can't go wrong with the O'Jays.

© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of The Right Stuff Records, and is used for informational purposes only.