Getting a band or group back together is a standard at some point in the music industry. Motown did just that when they released The Temptations album, Reunion in 1982. Notable Temptations members David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks returned to the group after a decade long absence and reunited with founding members Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin. Also on the album were the then-current Temptations, Dennis Edwards, Glenn Leonard, and Richard Street.
While I hadn’t even turned one yet when the album was released, in my research as a music fan, I do know that the Tempts reunion was one of the biggest music-based stories in the spring of 1982. The album opens up with the funky “Standing on the Top” written and produced by Rick James. A year prior, The Tempts had provided back vocals on James’s own hit “Super Freak,” and as music fans know, Rick smoothly yells “Temptations, SING!” in both “Super Freak” and “Standing on the Top.”
The album version of “Standing on the Top” clocks in at an almost whopping ten minutes! Instrumentation fans will appreciate, as the second half of the song is an all-out funk jam session. However, the track’s genius is Rick’s ability to mess six different vocalists and give everyone somewhat of a lead. I highly recommend that everyone head over to YouTube and check out the video, which not only displays pristine choreography but smooth vocals.
Urban legend has it that Gamble & Huff were supposed to oversee the Reunion album production, but a deal was never arranged. Instead, Motown stuck with in house producers. Barret Strong wrote the album’s second song, “You Better Beware,” which features David Ruffin on lead. Up next is Kerry Gordy and Benny Medina’s “Lock It in the Pocket.” On the one hand, the song does sound dated, but it does have an infectious groove, and I could see the song being a club hit if released as a single. Similar sentiments carry over to another Kerry Gordy and Benny Medina composition, “Money’s Hard to Get,” which features Dennis Edwards on lead.
One of the most surprising things about the album is Motown didn’t spread the leads around more. Throughout the album’s nine tracks, Dennis Edwards sings lead on six, which is fine, as Edwards is always going to take a listener to church. Edwards’s balladry is in full effect on the cover version of Charlene’s “I’ve Never Been to Me.” The smoothness continues on the Smokey Robinson penned “Backstage,” where Dennis Edwards and Richard Street share co-leads. Melvin’s bass is also heard in the background to significant effect.
Smokey Robinson also contributes “More on the Inside” and “Like a Diamond in the Sky.” The former harkens back to the group’s 1964 hit “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep” with a smoother arrangement. The latter song comes off as a filler, in my opinion. Reunion closes out with a strong album track, the rock influenced “Don’t Hold It In,” where Dennis Edwards and David Ruffin share lead.
Overall this is a fine Temptations album that has a few missteps. I often wonder why the label didn’t enlist El DeBarge to write a song for Eddie Kendricks and Glenn Leonard, the group’s falsettos. If anything, The Temptations could’ve covered “Share My World” from the first DeBarge album. Nevertheless, The Temptations Reunion album hits more than it misses.
Top Songs: “Standing on the Top,” “Backstage,” “More on the Inside”
Final Grade: B-
Reunion is available on all streaming platforms.