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Teddy Pendergrass: Teddy - Live in '79

Shout Factory // Unrated // March 21, 2006
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted March 14, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Teddy Pendergrass is a singer with both considerable triumph and tragedy as markers on his career path. He began his career singing gospel songs in the churches of Philadelphia and was an ordained minister by the age of 10. In his teens he was with a local group named "The Cadillacs" which in turn merged with a more renowned band, "Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes". The standout hits from his peak years came with the Blue Notes, in the way of two stellar songs that had tons of airplay- "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and "Wake Up Everybody", both superb ballads. Being from Philadelphia was a boon to his career in itself, for there he was working with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff of Philadelpia International Records, instrumental in the R&B music known as part of the "Philadelphia Soul Sound" of the day. Unfortunately for the Blue Notes there was quite a bit of dissention between Pendergrass and Melvin, and Teddy parted ways with the band- at first forming his own "Blue Notes", then opting for a full-fledged solo career of his own.

With devilish good looks and a feisty, sexy voice that got plenty of recognition and airplay on the R&B-Soul radio stations, Pendergrass was a natural entertainer with a large following buying each solo release, with 5 platinum albums to his name- an enormous accomplishment, especially given the R&B competition of the mid-to-late 70's. In 1977 and 1978 he received several Grammy nominations as well as winning an American Music Award for top R&B performer of 1978. This was an era when superstars the likes of The Commodores, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5 (and Michael Jackson as a solo artist), The Ohio Players, Barry White, and Donna Summer- just to name a few- were putting out recordings on a regular basis and keeping the airwaves filled with new 70's soul hits seemingly every week. Despite the high sales numbers of TP's albums he never seemed to be able to come up with a solo breakout hit that crossed over to mainstream top 40 stations in the manner he had done so with Melvin and the Blue Notes. This is not to say that hits didn't come- among them, "The More I Get, The More I Want", "Close The Door", and "Love TKO" were solid sellers for Pendergrass, but the best seemed yet to come.

It is entirely likely that a few crossover breakthrough hits would have come along had his career kept humming along at the smooth pace it was moving; it seemed only a matter of time until Pendergrass made a name for himself even bigger than the heights which he had already attained. In 1982 the TP express was brought to a terrible halt, when Pendergrass was critically injured in a car accident. The following year was spent in physical therapy and rehabilitation, with Teddy eventually being able to perform once again in a wheelchair. He continued his career and released a number of good albums in the 80's and 90's.

The Concert-

Clocking in at 80 minutes, this is a great little show for fans of Pendergrass. Recorded at the Sahara in Lake Tahoe, Nevada on February 2, 1979, the concert has the feel of the soul 70's era it emanates from, complete with horn section and three backup singer/dancers at side stage. His performance is very good here; Teddy looks to be in super condition, nimbly moving about the stage, keeping the mostly female audience enthralled and in his pocket; we get lots of multicolored lighting which only helps to augment his funky white attire. With his voice in fine form Pendergrass seems very much at the top of his game, at least on this given night. His own material holds up very well, but a cover of the sappy old Eric Carmen AM staple "All By Myself" seems vastly out of place. Sadly, some of his best music had yet to see the light of day at the time this show was recorded, but Teddy had plenty of fine songs with which to ply his rough-edged crooning trade.

The track listing here for this disc is-

Life Is A Song Worth Singing
Only You
All By Myself
Medley: If You Don't Know Me By Now/The Love I Lost/Bad Luck/Wake Up Everybody
Easy, Easy, Got To Take it Easy
Close The Door
When Somebody loves You Back
Get Up, Get Down, get Funky, Get Loose


Video-

Presentation here is in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. While not razor sharp, the footage is quite good and the colors are fine.

Audio-

Audio track here is in mono. While that may seem disappointing, it is a decent, clear track and fine given both the age of the material and the fact that it is a small stage concert.

Extras-

In-Depth Interview With Teddy Pendergrass At Home- Clocking in at about 25 minutes, Pendergrass discusses in great detail his beginnings in music as well as his career in general- childhood, days with the Blue Notes, the accident and his subsequent comeback. Relaxed, Teddy comes across as personable, upbeat and genuinely inspirational. This is a gem of an extra for Pendergrass fans.

Final Thoughts-

A fine little R&B treasure, Teddy Pendergrass fans really can't lose with this disc. The show catches Teddy's physical and musical vitality before his unfortunate accident and captures both the magnetism of his live performances and the devotion of his fans. Paired with a fine interview with Pendergrass in present day, this disc is well worth having, especially at such a low MSRP. Recommended.
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