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The Five Stairsteps - Our Family Portrait/Stairsteps (2014) review

The Five Stairsteps "Our Family Portrait/Stairsteps" (Real Gone Music/Soul Music Records, 2014)

                The Five Stairsteps were a family soul band from Chicago who had a big hit with the familiar “O-o-h Child” in 1970. This reissue captures two of their albums made for the Buddah label. 1968’s Our Family Portrait is impressive in that its songs were mostly written and produced by a teenage member of the group. But, while the record has some nice touches here and there, overall it sounds unbalanced and lacking in basic rhythm and melody. The group was much more together when they recorded 1970’s Stairsteps, with producer Stan Vincent on board. For this release they branched out to pop/rock in doing readings of The Beatles’ “Getting Better” and “Dear Prudence,” both those covers interesting and beguiling meshes of soul, pop, and psychedelia that are reminiscent of The Temptations’ Psychedelic Shack album. The Vincent-penned “O-o-h Child,” which is being introduced to a new generation of listeners via its inclusion on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, is pop-soul magic and the clear highlight of the record. The album has a pleasant overall feel even although it goes astray at times by veering off into 50s-style tunes that have a novelty feel and that break the momentum created by the more refreshing material. Hearing the two albums together, along with the three bonus tracks thrown into the reissue, gives you the feeling that you’re listening to a Jackson 5-like family soul band, one whose output was uneven overall but inspired in its high moments.

Review made by Brian Greene/2014
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