Though underappreciated as funk revolutionaries -- due mainly to a string of hits like "My Girl" that defined them as pop-soulsters for the Big Chill generation -- the Temptations were, in fact, as important to the emergence of '60s soul power as Marvin Gaye or Sly Stone. Under the production/composition tutelage of Norman Whitfield, the Dennis Edwards-led Tempts spun out a string of side-long ghetto opuses and raw funk grinders between 1968 and 1973 that completely raised the bar for black pop music in terms of musicality and concept. Sure there were hits; lots of 'em, in fact. "Cloud Nine," "Psychedelic Shack," "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and others of these two dozen songs were radio mainstays. But even then -- especially in the case of "Papa" -- those tracks were edited down from longer versions 8, 10 and 12 minutes long; funk odysseys driven by Dennis Coffey's fuzzed-out guitar and the relentless rhythm attack of Motown's best. Socially aware and musically inventive, listening to these tracks now (without the crust of 30 years of "oldies radio" jamming your perception) confirms that the Temptations were way ahead of the game.
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