Masterpiece (The Temptations album)

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Masterpiece
Studio album by The Temptations
Released February 21, 1973
Recorded 1972-73
Genre Soul, funk, psychedelic soul
Length 42:08
Label Gordy
GS 965
Producer Norman Whitfield
The Temptations chronology
All Directions
(1972)
Masterpiece
(1973)
The Temptations in Japan
(1973)
Alternative covers
An alternative re-edition cover

Masterpiece is a 1973 album by The Temptations for the Gordy (Motown) label, produced and written by Norman Whitfield.

Overview[edit]

The title refers to the album being not the group's intended masterpiece, but Norman Whitfield's. Having already produced songs for the Temptations such as "Smiling Faces Sometimes" and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" which emphasized his instrumental tracks over the group's vocals, Whitfield goes one step further here.

The title track, at nearly fourteen minutes long, includes only three minutes of vocals from the group, who all share sections of the lead vocal. "Masterpiece" shares space on side one with "Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)", a slow classic-styled ballad led by Richard Street which opens the album. Side two of the LP opens with "Ma", an ode to a hillbilly mother led by Street, Damon Harris, and Melvin Franklin, which was recorded as the title track of Rare Earth's 1973 Whitfield-produced LP. "Law of the Land", led by Dennis Edwards, Street, and Harris, was recorded the same year by The Undisputed Truth. The song is a message track in the tradition of "Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down" from Puzzle People. "Plastic Man", with its lead vocal shared between Edwards, Harris, Franklin and Street, disparages "plastic people" who operate in backhanded ways, while the eight-minute album closer, "Hurry Tomorrow", is a solo spot for Harris, which explores a hallucinogenic drug trip.

Many critics, and the Temptations themselves, remarked that much of Masterpiece, and especially its title track, sounded like a Norman Whitfield/Funk Brothers solo recording featuring supporting vocals by the Temptations. Fans complained directly to the Temptations themselves, and some music journalists began snidely referring to the Temptations as "The Norman Whitfield Chorale Singers" and other such names.

Despite the criticism directed towards the LP, "Masterpiece" became a #1 hit on the Billboard R&B singles chart, and a #7 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Its follow-up, the "Papa Was a Rolling Stone"-like "Plastic Man", hit #40 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)" also became a Top 40 hit in the late summer/early fall of 1973.

Masterpiece was the final Temptations LP recorded in Detroit at Motown's Hitsville U.S.A. studio. By 1973, Motown Records had completed its migration to Hollywood, California, and beginning with the next release, 1990, the Temptations would record in Los Angeles-area studios.

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars link

Track listing[edit]

All selections written and produced by Norman Whitfield.

Side one[edit]

  1. "Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)" - 4:36
  2. "Masterpiece" - 13:49

Side two[edit]

  1. "Ma" - 4:46
  2. "Law of the Land" - 5:08
  3. "Plastic Man" - 5:53
  4. "Hurry Tomorrow" - 8:06

Personnel[edit]

Singles history[edit]

  • "Masterpiece" (Vocal)
    • Gordy single 7126, February 1, 1973; *B-side: "Masterpiece" (Instrumental)
  • "Plastic Man"
    • Gordy single 7129, May 10, 1973; B-side: "Hurry Tomorrow"
  • "Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)"
    • Gordy single 7131, July 24, 1973; B-side: "Ma"
  • "Law of the Land"
    • Tamla-Motown single TMG-866, 1973 (UK only); B-side: "Run Charlie Run" (from All Directions)

Chart history[edit]

Name Chart (1973) Peak position
Masterpiece U.S. Billboard Pop Albums 7
Masterpiece U.S. Top R&B Albums 1
"Masterpiece [Vocal]" U.S. Billboard Pop Singles 7
"Masterpiece [Vocal]" U.S. Billboard R&B Singles 1
"Plastic Man" U.S. Billboard Pop Singles 40
"Plastic Man" U.S. Billboard R&B Singles 8
"Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)" U.S. Billboard Pop Singles 35
"Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)" U.S. Billboard R&B Singles 2

See also[edit]