O'Jays Sing 'For The Love'

Few groups can boast that they've been together 40-plus years -- and are still recording. One that can is the O'Jays. Now part of the MCA family after a string of R&B/crossover hits on Philadelphi

Few groups can boast that they've been together 40-plus years -- and are still recording. One that can is the O'Jays. Now part of the MCA family after a string of R&B/crossover hits on Philadelphia International ("Love Train," "For the Love of Money") and EMI ("Have You Had Your Love Today"), the trio is anticipating the Oct. 9 release of its latest album, "For the Love . . ."

"We're just trying to keep the O'Jays tradition of good beats and great love songs," says Eddie Levert Sr., who, along with Walter Williams, was a member of the Triumphs, the O'Jays precursor established in 1958 in Canton, Ohio, with William Powell, Bobby Massey, and Bill Isles. Christened the O'Jays by Cleveland DJ Eddie O'Jay, the group's first major hit was 1967's "I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)" on Bell.

Current O'Jays members Levert, Williams, and Eric Grant play a prominent role in "For the Love . . ." With Matthew Rose, the threesome co-wrote, produced, and arranged the bulk of the 12-song set. Featuring a mix of R&B, pop, and Latin-edged flavors, the album primarily features midtempo tunes, led by the cha-cha beat of first single "Let's Ride." Written and produced by Steve "Stone" Huff, the song was sent to radio in July. Rounding out the album are several ballads -- an O'Jays' specialty showcased on such tracks as "I'm Ready Now" and "Sounds Like Me."

"We wanted to bring something to the ball game this time to attract new fans but also not lose our fan base," Levert says. "We're still the romantics and groovers talking about relationships. Love is the message, and that's what we're trying to preach." Williams adds, "It was a great experience doing this album ourselves -- something we needed to do to help us grow musically."

Tina Simpkin, marketing director at MCA, says the label began initiating radio and retail promotional tie-ins just before the album's street date. The campaign included such radio stops as KJLH Los Angeles, which inducted the group -- which surprisingly has never won a Grammy -- into the station's own R&B hall of fame.

Additional plans -- including a release party at the Cleveland-based Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the selection of a second single, and more touring (the group recently wrapped one leg of a performance schedule that included stops in Seattle and L.A.) -- are on hold until early November. By that point, Levert is expected to receive a clean bill of health after suffering a broken foot that required surgery and pins.

"We're excited about having living legends on the label," Simpkin says. "They're still doing what they love and are incredibly committed. I don't think a lot of young groups today could do what the O'Jays have done."

Returning with its first new album since 1997's "Love You to Tears" on Global Soul (a label established by Levert's son Gerald), the O'Jays say the only real disappointment in its four-decade-plus career is the current state of radio. "The relationship between radio and artists has changed drastically," Levert says. "It's become more mechanical than personal. Not being heard, not being able to be in the radio game is a low point. But we think we've written material that will produce some attention.

"And besides," he says with a laugh. "We aren't going anywhere until you all hear us out."
THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.