Full disclosure – my favorite Temptation is David Ruffin. Can’t help it. He had me with “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” But I do love me some Eddie Kendricks.
Temptations-era Eddie Kendricks doesn’t do much for me, aside from “Just My Imagination,” which is sublime.
For the most part, Motown did little with Eddie Kendricks after he left the Temptations. He was stuck singing catchphrase-y stuff like “Keep On Truckin'” and soft-porn foolishness like “Get the Cream Off the Top” that while respectfully successful, never allowed him to use his unearthly voice or unique phrasing. He was a study in artistic arrested development, really.
But when he was good, no one could touch Eddie Kendricks. I give you some of his less played-out tracks, which, upon further introspection, may give me reason to rethink my favorite Temptation….
As a former Temptation, Eddie Kendricks would have been a little higher up on the totem pole than some of the other Motown artists of the early 70s, but you can’t tell it by “If You Let Me,” which is precisely what makes this song so groovy. It’s a little rough around the edges; the lyrics are slangy, the production not as sparkly-clean as most of the Motown stuff of the time. “If You Let Me” was also a departure for Eddie Kendricks; in the Temptations, his swoony falsetto was usually employed for the sweet stuff. Hearing him get just a little swaggery, just a tad gritty – this is Motown, people, after all – makes for interesting listening.
“Darling Come Back Home” is another atypical Motown track. Lyrically, it’s closer to the beggin’ and pleadin’ style of Stax than to the more refined Motown, but the crisp production marks it as Motown. Eddie’s singing in a lower register than he usually employs, almost guttural in places, and it’s more convincing than anything he ever did with the Temps.
But I’m still a fan of Eddie’s falsetto. “Tell Her Love Has Felt the Need” may be one of the most immaculately sung songs in the entire Motown catalog. This is one of those songs that you occasionally hear on Muzak in a department store that makes you stop dead in your tracks and just listen. It’s almost operatic in tone, and the arrangement is so understated, never getting in the way of that voice…. that voice.
And the lyrics… they are ageless, poetic really. RE:
“In the morning when she wakes
Light of dawn come touch her face
Sunshine keep her warm and safe
Wind come blow her tears away…”
Beautiful. Unreal. Just stop and listen…