If any of you grew up loving hot rods (as I did), there was one type of street rod that I always loved best - the fake out. A 'fake out' hot rod is a car that looks completely stock, but is really a high powered street rod in the engine, suspension, and guts.
Undisputed Truth are the music equivalents of 'fake out' street rods. The cover of this CD looks like a 60s soul 'golden oldies' comp, and the label is even Motown Records. To top it off, the band was formed by Norman Whitfield, who also formed The Temptations. But Undisputed Truth are much sharper and controversial than first impressions would lead you to believe. Hidden under the hood is the dissension of radical social reform, blended into incredible early 70s songs.
The CD booklet starts off with a blurb that really sums them up perfectly - 'Undisputed Truth was one of Motown's boldest acts. They were the brainchild of legendary producer Norman Whitfield, who described them as "a perfect cross between Sly & the Family Stone and the 5th Dimension." As the seventies unfolded, the edgy ensemble emerged with heart-tugging vocals riding over a twisted psychedelic soul groove.'
My first exposure to Undisputed Truth was What It Is on the Howie B 'Back To Mine' CD. The version of 'What It Is' on 'Smiling Faces: The Best of Undisputed Truth' is not the same as the one on the Howie B. comp. It is shorter and doesn't have the beginning part I liked so much, that started off the 'Back To mine' CD. In fact, there is another Undisputed Truth compilation that was released within the same year as this one. It is on the UK label Universal International and is called 'The Collection.' I think I would like that comp a little better than this one (and I like this one a lot), but I only had access to this domestic compilation when writing this review.
The band really changed during the time it was together. There was even a pretty thorough lineup change in 1973, when Norman Whitfield broad in 4 new members, and let go both of the female vocalists. All he kept was Joe Harris, who had the voice everyone associated with Undisputed Truth. The new members came from a Detroit band the Magictones. New to the band were 3 male vocalists and a female vocalist. The Magictones had a Parliment-Funkadelic sound, which they brought into Undisputed Truth.
Some of the new Undisputed Truth songs are quite fine, particularly my favorite track UFO's, which reminds me of the Chicks On Speed track The Floating Pyramid Over Frankfurt That the Taxi Driver Saw When Hew Was Landing. UFO's has a disco feel that I like a lot.
Despite fine later period tracks, it is the early Undisputed Truth tracks with the lineup of Billie Rae Calvin, Joyce Evans and Joe Harris that I love best. They had a sound that was so cool that you can't help but love them when you listen to their tracks now.
- Smiling faces sometimes
- Papa was a rollin' stone
- Law of the land
- You make your own Heaven and Hell right here on Earth
- Lil' Red Ridin' Hood
- What it is
- Help yourself
- I'm a fool for you
- Higher than high
- Ball of confusion (that's what the world is today)