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Hearts and Soul

Temptations Revue will leave Valentine's Day sweethearts on 'Cloud 9.'

February 09, 2001|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Apart from owning a greeting card company, little else could top seeing the Temptations with your chosen one on Valentine's Day. Those sartorially splendid singers, "those emperors of soul," will croon all their classic tunes at the Ventura Theatre on Wednesday night.

This is not the original Temptations, since four of them--Paul Williams, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Melvin Franklin--are harmonizing in heaven. But even though these guys weren't there at the beginning, they're about as good as it gets.

This group, dubbed the Temptations Revue, was born in the early '90s, after a court battle raged and the Motown record label got to keep the Temptations name for the band led by original Temp Otis Williams.

The Temptations Revue is led by Dennis Edwards, who's been around the block a few times himself. Edwards was originally a member of the Contours and then the Firebirds before replacing David Ruffin in the Temptations in 1968.

So he was there on Jan. 18, 1989, when the Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

He clearly remembers his trip to musical cloud nine.

"When I found out, I was calling all the other guys and congratulating them, then I got my own letter," Edwards said. "Man, that was the greatest day of my life. Even though I wasn't one of the original members, it sort of validated everything for me."

The Temptations began as the Elgins in 1960 with five Detroit teenagers--Kendricks, Franklin, Otis Williams, Paul Williams and Elbridge Bryant. They soon became the Temptations, and in 1964, Ruffin replaced Bryant.

Signed to Motown, the band was blessed by having a couple of the greatest songwriters of all time, Smokey Robinson and Norman Whitfield, in their corner. Their first No. 1 hit was "My Girl" in 1964, which remains a classic, especially on Valentine's Day.

And the hits just kept on coming. After Edwards replaced Ruffin in 1968, the group's next single, "Cloud Nine" won a Grammy. In 1972, "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" won two Grammys. The group had a three-record greatest hits package in 1973. The Temps have released more than 50 albums, had 14 No. 1 hits and have toured the world, harmonizing better than anybody, wearing those cool suits and doing that fancy footwork.

"We play all the time, pretty near every weekend," Edwards said. "The hardest thing is the actual travel--getting to the gig. You can't burn the candle at both ends like you could when you were young. We've been all over the world. We've played Moscow; we've been in Romania and Bulgaria, where they didn't speak English but they could sing 'I got sunshine on a cloudy day' and they all knew the rest of the words to 'My Girl.' "

So there probably isn't anywhere the Temptations haven't been, and everyone everywhere seems to know their vast repertoire.

And they always show up wearing the right suit.

"We have people to take care of that stuff for us," Edwards said. "We have a valet that handles our clothes, and security people--there's about 15 in our group in all. We must have about 20 different suits, I guess."

All in all, Wednesday should be a tempting experience.

"We try to make it sound as close to the way it did 20 years ago," Edwards said. "It's not the same guys, but it's very close to that sound."

DETAILS

Temptations Revue at the Ventura Theatre, 26 Chestnut St., 8:30 p.m. Wednesday; $40; $75 per couple; 653-0721.

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"Gimme an F!" begins the notorious Fish Cheer, which was shouted with religious fervor at countless anti-Vietnam war demonstrations, courtesy of those Bay Area wackos, Country Joe & the Fish. But that was then and this is now, and Country Joe McDonald, a longtime singer-songwriter solo artist, will perform Saturday night at the Backlot Theatre of the Gold Coast Center for the Arts in Thousand Oaks.

McDonald, himself a Vietnam-era veteran of the U.S. Navy, fronted the Fish, one of the first psychedelic rock bands to emerge from the Bay Area. Their shows offered American roots and jug band influences along with wacky theatrics, with the band often playing in outrageous costumes. They had their first hit with the surreal "Sweet Lorraine" but will forever be remembered for the song "Vietnam Rag" and their set at Woodstock.

Fragile even by '60s band standards, the Fish broke up at least five times before finally calling it quits after four albums. While always linked to his past, McDonald, who still lives in Berkeley, has been a solo player for 30 years now, so he must have that folkie thing figured out. He has recorded numerous albums, many on his own label, Rag Baby. His latest is "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Sing Some Songs."

DETAILS

Country Joe McDonald at the Backlot Theatre, 1408 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks; 7:30 p.m. Saturday; $35; 497-8606.

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Leftover Salmon concocts its own eclectic blend of musical mayhem, Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass. Not too many others can claim that one. This frantic fish band will perform Thursday night at the Ventura Theatre, with Boxed Set opening.

This Boulder, Colo., quartet even has its own brand of followers, Salmon Heads, who have been known to dance much like Phish Heads and before that, Deadheads. The band plays bluegrass, acoustic roots music and rock, featuring banjos and washboards, plus the usual guitar, drums and bass.

The band's latest, "The Nashville Sessions," reflects its diverse roots. Guests include Big Head Todd, John Cowan, Lucinda Williams, Bela Fleck, Waylon Jennings, Earl and Randy Scruggs, Jeff Hanna, Taj Mahal and lots more.

DETAILS

Leftover Salmon and Boxed Set at the Ventura Theatre; 9 p.m. Thursday; $15; 653-0721.

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Bill Locey can be reached by e-mail at blocey@pacbell.net.

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