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Rockin' Roll Baby
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  • The last of the Stylistics' Thom Bell productions is just as essential as the first two. This one is slightly harder to find, as it has not been reissued in the States. It has been reissued by a United Kingdom company, however, and can be purchased via online music stores. The title cut is possibly the fastest record the sweet Philly crooners ever recorded. The late Linda Creed's lyrics fit the speedy rhythm track like custom gloves and lead singer Russell Thompkins enunciates every word clearly, making a lyric sheet unnecessary. Kenny Gamble collaborates with Bell on "Payback Is a Dog," a what-goes-around-comes-around song performed in the Stylistics' classic style. Normally writers for the Spinners, Bruce Hawes, Charles Simmons, and Joe Jefferson contribute the questioning "Could This Be the End," a ballad that Thompkins' precise falsetto works to perfection. Everybody knows "You Make Feel Brand New"; Airrion Love begins the stately love song and Thompkins takes it home shining brightly, hitting the notes with the precision of a diamond cutter. With Thompkins it's all about technique, and on the Bell sides he was always restrained -- just once you wanted him to cut loose and let that falsetto go hog-wild. Overall, not as compelling as the first two Bell productions, but a far cry better then anything that came after it. ~ Andrew Hamilton
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