The O’Jays – 1977 – Travelin’ At The Speed Of Thought
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Review by Andre S. Grindle
When I first discovered this album at the now defunct Borders Book & Music over a decade ago,I was already very familiar with the O’Jay’s vast catalog of albums. This was in the bargain bin and you could imagine the thoughts of a young man with little money at the chance of hearing an album he’d never heard of by a group he really respected. For some reason after that I never did listen to this much after that-more or less skipped songs. But the more I know of it’s history I realize,for very different reasons I probably wasn’t the only one.
A1 Travelin’ at the Speed of Thought 4:59
A2 We’re All in This Thing Together 4:52
A3 So Glad I Got You, Girl 3:32
A4 Stand Up 4:46
B1 Those Lies (Done Caught Up With You This Time) 3:45
B2 Feelings 7:11
B3 Work on Me 4:26
B4 Let’s Spend Some Time Together 4:33
After a string of early/mid 70’s successes as a Philly Soul album act who,by the way could also pack SERIOUS PUNCH on their single records too there were a lot of other acts doing what the O’Jays started as the 70’s drew to a close. So basically this album didn’t produce any big hits and got lost in the mass wave of popular disco that…ironically the group and Philly soul helped to bring about. But still there was a lot of life left in the group during this period.
The title song was an excellent place to start the album. With it’s early appropriation of the synthesizer “video game” sound mixed in with the danceable uptempo,orchestral Philly soul there’s a message here looking to the future of humanity and relationships between lovers-somewhat inspired by something of a Logan’s Run/Star Wars outlook possibly.
Primarily an album of uptempo material there are some sure fire highlights here. One of them is the inspired gospel/funk powered “Stand Up“. Seemingly recorded live the apparent audience seemed almost hysterical as the power of the groups delivery and the firey tempo got everyone up and running. “Those Lies (Done Caught Up With You This Time)” is another strong number,very much in the disco era for sure but still carrying their Back Stabbers era message fully intact. Aside from an overlong version of “Feelings“,which does nothing to save it from the stigma the original has there’s “Work On Me“,the hit song from this album and by far the most funk oriented.
You also get two more smoother songs on this album-not ballads exactly but not as quick in tempo. “We’re All In This Together” again fits pretty comfortably into the disco era with it’s very tight harmonies and the closer is the romantic “Let’s Spend Some Time Together“,celebrating a break from stresses in a relationship. This is not the greatest album for the O’Jay’s. Or for Philly International for that matter. Part of it is similar to what happened with Motown. After a time,the type of sound the label became famous for ran out of ways to variate itself. And the result was getting suck in something of a rut. True Gamble/Huff and the trio themselves are still making the most of adding what new elements they could into what was becoming a somewhat predictable sound. But there were signs that the band would need something of a commercial overhaul so people would realize they hadn’t sunk into total obscurity. Lucky for this talented harmony/vocal trio they would soon get their chance at this.
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