1. If You Let Me
2. Let Me Run into Your Lonely Heart
3. Day by Day
4. Girl You Need a Change of Mind
5. Someday We'll Have a Better World
6. My People Hold On
7. Date with the Rain
8. Eddie'e Love
9. I'm on the Sideline
10. Just Memories
This album, PEOPLE...HOLD ON, is my all time favorite by Eddie Kendricks. This was his second solo effort after leaving the Temptations, and it clearly defined the musical direction he would be taking in his career. Recorded a year before his first real taste of commercial (read: crossover) success (1972), the material and production presented here probably outshined anything he ever made that came afterward. Now this is not to downplay Kendricks' smashes "Keep On Truckin'" or "Boogie Down" or any of his stellar subsequent LPs; I loved those songs as a little kid and I still enjoy listening to them to this day. But PEOPLE...HOLD ON marked a real departure for Eddie: he got rid of the formulatic sound that had marked most of Motown's records, and chose a Washington, D.C.-based R&B band, The Young Senators (which was also his backup band on tour), to play behind him on these sessions instead. The result: an amazing chunk of funk with a splash of honey added to it. And Eddie's confidence as a soloist had definitely grown since his debut in 1971.
Produced by (now the Reverend) Frank Wilson and Chess Records alumni Leonard Caston, Jr., PEOPLE...HOLD ON was a concept album that was specifically geared towards Eddie's largest fan base --African-Americans -- and sold well among that market (as would all of his solo works). It featured cut after cut of songs that made the Thin Man from Birmingham get back to his roots: gospel-drenched ballads ("Day By Day", "Just Memories"), ballads with a funk/reggae-tinged edge ("If You Let Me", "Eddie's Love", "I'm On The Sideline"), hot dance cuts ("Girl You Need A Change of Mind", "Date With The Rain") and soulful message music ("Someday We'll Have a Better World", "My People...Hold On").
The title song, "My People...", is an absolute triumph, an adventurous, hypnotic tune that features African drums, chants, hand claps, and dramatic spoken passages. Talk about going back to your roots? Well, Eddie really put it on us here, taking us all the way back to the Motherland, with an almost revolutionary message. Particularly worth noting is the full version of the brilliant arrangement of "Girl You Need a Change of Mind", a song that addresses feminism, which is included here in its full glory. Relentlessly coming at you, it has a couple of breakdowns in the song that were similarly used with great success on Eddie's later hits "Truckin'" and "Boogie Down". "Change of Mind" has been documented by many to be the first disco record (playing time: 7:30), and it is still very popular in club circles and on classic soul radio. It stamped Eddie with the reputation for waxing some of the tightest dance tracks to ever come out of Motown in the '70s. His falsetto sounds wonderfully seductive, with the male voices in the background encouraging his rap...convincing an independent woman that he's in her corner, but he's asking her not to get so caught up in being a superwoman that she puts making love to him out of her mind ("Now I'm for women's rights, I just want equal nights"). Whatcha say to that?
Also worth mentioning is the the opening tune, a Frank Wilson composition, "If You Let Me". Eddie's pristine natural tenor is the focus here, and it is one of the best vocal performances he has ever turned in -- in or out of the Temptations. Pouring emotion into each lyric, you kind of get the feeling that the song indeed held some deep personal meaning for him. When he sings "Just tryin' to make ya see, my mind done all but left me"-- you honestly believe it. It was also Eddie's highest charting R&B single since his departure from the group, and signaled that something huge was on the horizon.
IMO, the only flaw on the album is "Let Me Run Into Your Lonely Heart", which is a raw, funky little cut, but the arrangement of the song is a bit too discordant for me to fully enjoy. But aside from that, PEOPLE...HOLD ON is something definitely worth "holding on" to, a true soul classic. Once you get this in your hands, you'll never want to let go. Motown, you know what to do -- get it back out there for us to enjoy on CD! This is, without a doubt, EJK's masterpiece.