Saturday, March 11, 2017

THREE DEGREES-...And Counting (1989)


So far, my 80's soul re-discovery joyride has focused primarily on the legendary male vocal groups, but I haven't forgotten at all about the female groups who were still active in my favorite time period as well. Among the first to pop into my head was the Philly soul trio, THE THREE DEGREES, who are famous for their timeless dreamy classic, "When Will I See You Again?"; in fact, that's the only hit of theirs that I'm even aware of from the 70's. As for their accomplishments a decade later, the only hit I could rave about before today was the dancey, PWL-produced "The Heaven That I Need". I would relive a few more of their past accomplishments when I took it upon myself to check out their final 80's studio album, "...And Counting". Well I can sure 'count' the number of songs here that delighted my ears—eight!—and each delighting in its own way. I will admit, though, that the opener, "Tie U Up", took a moment of getting used to, despite the catchy lyrics of wanting to have the man bound and at her side for a whole century and as catchy as the upbeat pop rhythm became after a minute or two. I think the low-key vocals and the unvaried melody in their delivery, combined with the fact that I had the more spunky "The Heaven That I Need" in the foreground of my mind, contributed to that. The ice began to melt on the follow-up treat, "Win, Place Or Show" (the title had gotten me thinking abut that old 80's game show—and the corresponding board game by the same name—"Win, Lose Or Draw", then had me getting briefly nostalgia about all of those other fun game shows I used to watch from that same era when I was a kid). Their smooth, low-key vocals against the sunny, perky dance-pop rhythm make this an especially delightful listen, and I noted how the chords were somewhat similar to the arrangement to the memorable hair band rock hit, "Turn Me Loose" by LOVERBOY. A coincidence that I would think that before listening to this album's fourth track, "Lock It Up", where the ladies deliver the words 'lock it up or turn it loose and set me free'. Now this is a THREE DEGREES jam that is on the same wavelength as my beloved "The Heaven That I Need"! A trend I've seen throughout this 80's soul joyride is that these groups find a way to bring a sliver of their vintage 70's sound into the music mix. Here, I'm instantly frozen in the "When Will I See You Again?" dream state on Track #3's "Make It Easy On Yourself", taking in the long, slow groove and saxophone-driven instrumental of the introductory movement before their lovely harmony and sweet voices chiming the words of 'breaking up is so very hard to do' taking over the rest of the way. Shades of the vintage THREE DEGREES cast down again on the album's second ballad beauty, "A Tender Lie"—bittersweet yet so warming at the same time (the pleading to the man to say he'll never stop loving her being the bitter while the tender music being the sweet). Then another trend I keep seeing is that there's always at least one senselessly fun tune that is totally 80's and could not have been recorded in any other decade. Falling into that category is Track #5's "Vital Signs" and its cute theme of the ladies wanting the man to be their doctor with their bold request of 'come and read my vital signs', complete with emergency sirens in the background for added effect:

1. Tie U Up
2. Win, Place Or Show
3. Make It Easy On Yourself
4. Look It Up
5. Vital Signs
6. A Tender Lie
7. After The Night Is Over
8. Are You That Kind Of Guy?

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