This is a pretty damn catchy smooth soul record. I don’t like this style of soul and I find myself almost overcome by the sheer catchiness of the material.
Funnily enough I just got through ragging on Glen Campbell for his slick version of country and now I am listening to another album from the same month with songs co-written by the same guy! (Dennis Lambert) and I find myself almost forgiving the polish because the songs are so catchy. I’m not exactly sure why I’m more forgiving here, maybe it’s because I’ve heard way more ’70s smooth soul than I’ve heard mainstream Nashville country, but anyway…
Unfortunately the best track here is the big cover (“Free Ride”) and it’s really not a huge improvement on the original. In fact, if pressed, I’m not sure I could have identified the Edgar Winter original as being substantially different. I don’t know which is more of a radio staple now and I think that either a) speaks to how long it’s been since I heard the original or b) speaks to how similar the Tavares version is. Either way, I don’t think this is much of an endorsement. (I just listened to it. They’re distinct, but not enough.)
The best “original” here “In the Eyes of Love” is a good example of the quality material the group was getting from its songwriters. But the members’ sole contribution, the title track, is also pretty good. Really, aside from the rote cover of “Free Ride”, the material is well above par for this genre of music.
Unfortunately the material is way too polished. The ballads are slick and the up-tempo tracks, though funky, could have more of an edge. (That some want to categorize them as disco speaks to how little edge most of them have.)
The group themselves acquit themselves rather well and occasionally win me over. (Such as on “In the Eyes of Love”.) But I still would just like more edge overall, both in their delivery and in the underlying instrumentation. (Like that guitar on the title track – the record just needs so much more of it.)