In Glorious Full Bloom
D.V. Lindner | King George, VA, USA | 05/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Originally released as Soul LP 736 in December 1971, this album heralded Gladys Knight, once and for all, as a singer for discerning adult listeners. Never again would any pretense to adolescence be affected. From this album forward, I was never indifferent at the news that Gladys Knight & the Pips had a new release.The album led off with the group's then current single "Make Me The Woman You Go Home To," a sterling performance. Nowadays, though, the lyrics might raise an eyebrow as Gladys `bargains' to keep the man she wants: `with a smile I'll fix you're evening meals/ iron your clothes - it ain't no big deal.' She also promises not to ask questions while her man stays out all hours and she doesn't know where he is. Yes, that's taking some big chances, but if love's never made a fool of you, there's a good chance you've never really been in love. "Master of My Mind," here, is from the same emotional territory.Oh, Gladys can still let an abusive lover have it right back, and there's some proof of that here too in "If You're Gonna Leave Just Leave," and especially "It Takes A While Lot Of Man For A Woman Like Me." Fed up, and with clever Smokey Robinson lyrics to fuel her fury, Gladys tells her failing lover: `Need someone who can see/ what I'm trying to be/ But you don't appreciate it/ and I don't like where I'm situated/ Never knowing what changes you're gonna go through/ And I don't need no KID who's as old as you!'There are nice takes on outside material like "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," a superb and effecting read of James Taylor's "Fire And Rain," and the gentlemen Pips singing some lead parts on The Beatles' "The Long And Winding Road."This album's crown jewel, however, was Gladys's take on the Sammi Smith country hit, "Help Me Make It Through The Night" written by Kris Kristofferson. There was no better proof that the group was never going back to teenage material after this. Fittingly, Gladys is all alone for this starkly orchestrated dissertation of loneliness, and I still think it's in the top five emotional performances of her life. Anyone who heard this in the early months of 1972 couldn't have been surprised at how majestically she re-interpreted `The Way We Were' three years later. If you're broken-hearted and need to feel sad for yourself, this performance, and maybe a few shots of something 80-proof are all you need.There's a considerably longer list of accomplishments that Motown records can be proud of compared to any list of mistakes. But high on that shorter list is the fact that this group's concerns about the attention and promotion they got were not addressed adequately. Tired of feeling ignored, and with one more album after this one, they left for a contract with Buddha records. And we all know the glory that came then."