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  Undisputed Truth

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Click below for an Undisputed Truth sample:

What It Is

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The Undisputed Truth served as the launching pad for Norman Whitfield's funk experiments.   The original trio of Joe Harris, Brenda Joyce and Billie Ray Calvin was assembled from two struggling groups that couldn't land a deal, the Delicates and the Preps.  Whitfield hooked them up with a classic song for their debut single, "Smiling Faces Sometimes," a stinging portrait of paranoia that fit perfectly with the prevailing mood of black America.

They piddled along for the next couple of years, landing moderate hits like "Help Yourself" and "Big John Is My Name;" they also recorded the original version of "Papa Was A Rolling Stone." But judging them by the success of their singles does not do them justice.   Perhaps more so than any of their Motown contemporaries, the Undisputed Truth was an album act.  LPs such as Face to Face and The Undisputed Truth were loaded with extended psychedelic funk jams with plenty of experimentation in the mix.   The cumulative effect was reminiscent of Funkadelic, whom Whitfield had obviously been checking out.

With the final Gordy albums Higher Than High and Cosmic Truth, Whitfield brought his Funkadelic obsession to the forefront, outfitting the Truth with makeup, glitter wigs, spacey outfits and material with titles like "Poontang."  He also decided to revamp the group by kicking Calvin and Joyce out and bringing in Virginia McDonald, Calvin Stephens, Tyrone Berkeley and Taka Boom.  This lineup delivered smokers like "Higher Than High," "UFOs" and "Spaced Out."

The space age themes continued through the group's switch to Whitfield Records.  Method to the Madness opened with a monologue introducing the band as aliens on a mission to funkify the planet.  The monster jam on here is "You + Me = Love," a leftfield disco classic that Boom claims went gold.

The backing band for this record was an uncredited Rose Royce, and it appears their emergence spelled the end of the line for Undisputed Truth.  After all, Whitfield valued musicians and studio effects over singers, and the Truth played no instruments.  Smokin' was their final album.

Undisputed Truth's Deepest Grooves

Undisputed Truth (Gordy, 1971)

Face to Face With the Undisputed Truth (Gordy, 1972)

Law of the Land (Gordy, 1973)

Down To Earth (Gordy, 1974)

Cosmic Truth (Gordy, 1975)

Higher Than High (Gordy, 1975)

Method To The Madness (Whitfield, 1977)

Smokin' (Whitfield, 1979)
Sleeper cut "Sandman" is starting to get more recognition lately, being featured on rare groove compilations.

Milestones (Motown, 1995)
Compilation mixes the singles with edited LP cuts.

Collection (Motown, 2002)
New 19 track overview of the Motown years.  Someone should make an effort to reissue the Whitfield material.  

Copyright 2001, 2002  All rights reserved.

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