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THE VAULTS / CD REISSUES

The Three Degrees, "The Best of the Three Degrees: When Will I See You Again," Epic Associated/Legacy. (** 1/2)

June 07, 1996|ROBERT HILBURN

After Diana Ross left the Supremes in 1969, the pop world looked around anxiously for another superstar female trio. For a moment it seemed to have found one when the celebrated writing-production team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff came up in 1974 with two spectacular Top 10 hits with the Three Degrees: "T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)" and "When Will I See You Again."

Actually, the trio of Fayette Pinkney, Valerie Holiday and Sheila Ferguson had been recording with modest success for a variety of labels even before Ross left the Supremes. But it wasn't until 1974 that the Three Degrees broke into the Top 10.

"T.S.O.P." hit first, but it was chiefly an instrumental disco recording to which the Three Degrees contributed sweet, seductive vocal embroidery. "When Will I See You Again," however, had the feel of an old Supremes hit with its teen-directed expression of romantic insecurity:

"Are we in love or just friends

Is it my beginning or is this the end?

When will I see you again?"

Though the two records should have put the Three Degrees in place for a spectacular career run, the group, strangely, never came up with another Top 100 pop hit--though it did return to the R&B Top 20 with the catchy "I Didn't Know" in 1975. Based on the evidence here, the trio deserved better. While the material and arrangements are uneven on most of the remaining tracks on the album, the singing is consistently fresh and appealing.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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