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Great Albums You May Have Missed: The O'Jays' Ship Ahoy (1973)

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For bold, nuanced arrangements, classic songwriting chops, and the richness of gospel-inflected singers working together in perfect harmony, get your ears to Philadelphia.  Well, actually you don't have to leave New York--just listen to The O'Jays, one of the classic 1970s groups that developed Philly Soul.  A stylistic precursor to disco, the Quiet Storm sound, and smooth jazz, Philly Soul is rich, layered, and really, really hard not to dance to.  Ship Ahoy, The O'Jays' second album, is a great choice for listeners looking to explore the musical foundations of modern hip-hop, as well as new and longtime fans of soul and R&B.
 
The songs on Ship Ahoy feel topical, but also timeless.  The O'Jays sing about racism, greed, politics, and divisions within the black community, just for starters.  The title track is a 9-minute wonder about the Middle Passage of the African slave trade, and the album's second single, "For the Love of Money," has one of the greatest--and most sampled--bass lines in pop music.  As with any great soul album, there are terrific love songs, too.   
 
The horns soar.  The lush and elaborate string sections give the songs a full, warm feeling.  It's soul, but quite different from the better-known Motown sound; a little darker, a little funkier, and with a strong emphasis on the contrasts between the various, expertly arranged instruments.  If you're listening on the train or walking down the street, consider yourself warned: you just may find yourself dancing, too.
 
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