The Ultimate Collection

The Temptations

Motown Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: George Agnos


If you've become interested in the music of the Temptations after watching the recent television miniseries about them, you no doubt have found that there are many greatest-hits packages to choose from on the group. Here is the rundown: if you are only interested in their early, sweet soul numbers like "My Girl" or "Get Ready" then Greatest Hits, Vol. I is the album for you. If you prefer the rougher, funkier sounds of "Cloud Nine" and "I Wish It Would Rain" then Greatest Hits, Vol. II is the album to get.

The two CD set called Anthology is probably the best overall package because it has ALL the hits plus some interesting album cuts. For die-hard fans, there is a five CD Box set called Emperors Of Soul. But if you are only looking for a single CD collection of hits, there is All The Best Sellers, a 10 song collection with all the big hits. For a couple bucks more, though, I consider the single CD, 21 song collection called my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Ultimate Collection a better overview of the Temptations' music.

In 1997, Motown Records released The Ultimate Collection series for some of their artists including The Commodores and Smokey Robinson (both as a solo artist and a member of the Miracles). Like the other collections, the one for The Temptations is a well done single CD overview starting off with their first big hit "The Way You Do The Things You Do" and going through their last hit, 1986's "Treat Her Like A Lady" which was co-written by the last remaining original Temptation, Otis Williams.

What can I say about the Temptations that hasn't already been said? I consider them to be the best of the R&B groups because they started out in one direction - sweet, soul ballads - but grew musically over the years. They are mostly known for the ballads, especially the exquisite "Just My Imagination" with Eddie Kendricks' sweet falsetto vocals, harmonies as smooth as butter, and a clever string arrangement. And of course there is the original Robinson-penned mega hit "My Girl". I am also stuck on the less well-known ballad "It's Growing", also written by Robinson.

The Ultimate Collection has those songs, and also shows the gradually change to grittier songs that the Tempts were coming out with as the times were a changing. David Ruffin lent his, uh, rough vocals to the scorching "(I Know) I'm Losing You" and "Ain't Too Proud To Beg". When Ruffin was replaced as lead singer by Dennis Edwards in 1968, the band's material was also getting more socially conscious. Songs like "Cloud Nine", "Ball Of Confusion" and "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" are as hard-hitting as any song released in the late sixties and early seventies. And "Shakey Ground" is as funky as any song from that period.

This collection may be the ultimate but it is not perfect. Two glaring omissions are the hypnotic "Runaway Child, Running Wild" and the funkadelic "Psychedelic Shack", two big hits that can be found on All The Best Sellers. I would have preferred them here over a second acapella version of "My Girl" (as cool as it is), or "Angel Doll". I also miss "Masterpiece" although that one is not quite as essential.

Despite those omissions, most of their important songs are present and accounted for, and the track listing is in chronological order, letting the listener hear the Tempts unfold into a complete unit. If you just want a single disc overview of their career, The Ultimate Collection, is the best one around.

Rating: A-

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© 1998 George Agnos 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 Motown Records, and is used for informational purposes only.