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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Temptations and O'Jays Deliver the Ol' One-Two Punch

February 23, 1988|DUNCAN STRAUSS

The Temptations and the O'Jays, together--as they were Sunday at the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim--represent about 50 years of experience, a slew of personnel changes and approximately 1 zillion hits.

But this was no moldy nostalgia package (though both groups did prove eminently reliable, longstanding faves, like peanut butter 'n' jelly sandwiches or "Get Smart" reruns.)

Both outfits are touring behind current albums, and the Temptations clearly received a rejuvenating shot in the arm with the recent return of Dennis Edwards, who had left the group twice . If this one-two punch of steamy, soulful singing and dazzling dancing came up short in any way, it was by playing short: Both groups were on stage less than an hour (though having a second show to perform Sunday probably explains the brevity of the first one).

As if to emphasize both that the Temptations weren't going to merely coast on oldies, and that Edwards had rejoined the lineup, the quintet glided on stage performing the perky new "Look What You Started," with Edwards taking an often-soaring lead vocal.

The formally clad orchestra quickly moved into high gear, propelling the fivesome to a zesty visit to the "Psychedelic Shack." The group leaped back 18 years for that spirited workout, which threw fuel on the spark ignited--on stage and off--by the opening number.

Then the Temptations sprang back to the present, easing into the new ballad "Every Time I Close My Eyes."

And 'twas ever thus Sunday, though the ratio eventually moved toward more classics than currents--particularly with a rapid-fire medley encompassing such early gems as "The Way You Do the Things You Do," "All I Need" and "Get Ready." To a man (and to a song) the vocals were superb, delivered with a remarkable freshness and emotional edge, considering that the group wasn't exactly singing these tunes for the first time.

Similarly, some of these gents are no spring chickens, but that didn't prevent them from presenting a lot of spiffy dance moves, at once enormously loose and dead-on precise. These guys must have found what Ponce de Leon was looking for.

And they must have shared it with the O'Jays, who likewise operated as a very well-oiled dancing machine during Sunday's opening set. The veteran trio devoted a sizable segment of the show to plugging its latest LP, "Let Me Touch You."

But the sales pitch was never less than palatable because the group gave away free copies and wove in a few choice selections from the record (including the smoldering ballad "Lovin' You," which elicited screams from numerous women in the crowd).

Of course, the O'Jays also have a pretty big bag o' hits to dip into--and did. They pulled out "Use Ta Be My Girl," "Love Train" (the first of many times throughout the evening that the audience went completely bonkers) and a passionate, percolating rendition of "For the Love of Money," to close the set.

To borrow a phrase--or song title--that's popping up a lot lately: Hot, hot, hot!

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