The Ultimate Blue Notes

by: Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes

Actually the Ultimate Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergrass, this collection covers their Philadelphia International years from 1972-1975 as in-depth and representative of the band's talents as a single disc can get. Not to split too many hairs, but the vocal soul group did have a handful of good songs past this period, although none that match the majestic sweep of this material. Boasting dance beats, swirling strings, smooth crooning storytelling, and Pendergrass' booming baritone, this is some of the best as well as most representative R&B of the '70s, and this 15-track compilation is all you'll need to hear why. Practically double the amount of songs as Collectors Item and over twice as long, this anthology adds such often ignored gems as the almost eight-minute "Yesterday I Had the Blues" and the original version of "Don't Leave Me This Way" before Thelma Houston took it Top Ten, which itself clocks in at another six minutes. An updating of Legacy's 1995 If You Don't Know Me By Now: The Best of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, this 2001 disc features improved sound, new liner notes with full chart documentation for pop and R&B positions, slightly different track selection, all full-length album versions, and a snazzier-looking package. Sequenced for most appropriate musical flow (as opposed to chronologically), the disc mixes upbeat tracks with softer ballads for a more consistent listening experience, helped by the coherent Gamble & Huff production team. If you need one album from the legendary soul vocal group, this is certainly the one to choose. ~ Hal Horowitz

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