The Temptations were one of the greatest Motown acts of the sixties and seventies, scoring countless charting singles and albums and becoming one of the most popular groups in the world. They formed in 1960 and through various line-up changes are still touring to this day, although Otis Williams is the only original member. Icons of dance routines, matching suits and soulful harmonies, 1968 saw them lose lead singer David Ruffin (main vocalist on perhaps their most famous song My Girl) and replace him with Dennis Edwards – this heralded a direction change that led them into Psychedelic Soul.
The first album with Dennis Edwards was a collaboration with Diana Ross And The Supremes in 1968. Then came three albums in 1969 Cloud Nine (featuring the title track and a 9.37 of Run Away Child, Running Wild on the album), Together (another collaboration with Diana Ross) and lastly Puzzle People.
By this stage producer Norman Whitfield had taken complete control of The Temptations as he continued to take the band in a Psychedelic Soul direction, writing the songs with lyricist Barrett Strong and using the session legends, The Funk Brothers wherever possible. Even with lyrical social issues becoming important in the songs, The Temptations’ albums drifted away from the Motown sound as Whitfield experimented with his production techniques till the albums consisted of more instrumental sections than vocal parts. Eventually as the interest in Psychedelia waned the band craved to get back to the ballads of their early years (they were after all essentially a vocal group). Still, it took five more unorthodox albums and after Sky’s The Limit was released in 1971, Solid Rock and All Directions in 1972 and Masterpiece and 1990 in 1973 Whitfield finally vacated the producer’s chair.
That’s the short version of a very long story – what’s interesting is what happened in this five year period between 1968 and 1973 where styles collided and black music was influenced by white music instead of the other way around and a vocal group singing sweet ballads, dancing in formation in pristine suits had become edgy both musically and lyrically and a whole new genre was born. What’s perhaps best of all – they danced their way through the whole period and never missed a step.