Edwards and the Temps Review lend a little soul to Market-goers

by Ryan Snyder

The Temptations Review plays a free show at The Aquarius Music Hall. (photo by Ryan Snyder)

If you’re depending solely on the late-’90s NBC miniseries The Temptations for your acquaintance with the sordid history of the Motown luminaries, chances are that the name Dennis Edwards is a bit of an afterthought in their saga. Aside from being riddled with inaccuracies for the sake of good primetime drama, Edwards’ contribution as the

lead singer after the departure of David Ruffin during the soul group’s funkiest, most psychedelic era was simply glossed over. Not surprising, considering the heated relations between he and the only remaining original Temptation Otis Williams after Edwards co-opted the bands name in the ’90s to tour as Dennis Edwards & the Temptations, despite having been fired from the band for the third and final time in 1989. Edwards still tours with the music, however, and for what amounts to a splinter cell acting independently from the Temptations-proper, the Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards is more than a sound facsimile.

With the High Point Furniture Market in full swing, a $25 ticket to the April 19 Temps Review show at the Aquarius Music Hall was abruptly made free to compete with the exclusive Market-only entertainment schedule that has historically helped to lend an air of Vegas seediness. The arrangement seemed to work, as several hundred showed up on a Monday night for the Temps Review in spite of (or maybe thanks to) the presence of Sister Hazel a few blocks away. The surest sign that the Market invaders bit the bait? The plus ratio of nubile young female companions to ogrish johns flashing wads of bills at the gate of a free show, of course. That Market jack still seems to buy a lot of hookers these days.

The timing for the show couldn’t have been better, as Aquarius had recently been compelled to elevate their foot-high stage an additional two feet to meet the demands set forth by their recent Uncle Kracker booking. Given the old set-up, the dapper spins and posturing of Edwards’ crew, which included the son of an original Temp in Paul Williams Jr., would have been lost on all but the first few rows. It was also of note that this was the Aquarius’ earliest experiment with a seated performance, though David Sea’s raspy Ruffin replication had the shaggers unseated and packing the edge of the stage by the time “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” rolled around. Clad in matching black-andwhite striped coats, the Temps Review were relentless from their opening instrumental montage that included a tease of Funkadelic’s “We Want the Funk,” frenetically leading one hit right into the next like a living jukebox.

True to its name, the Temps Review hit on all eras of the group, from the pre-Motown of Melvin Franklin’s rendition of “Ol’ Man River” (sung admirably by bass Mike Pattillo, who reminded of the black Eugene Levy) to the disco-y psychedelia of “Cloud Nine.” Edwards’ paid no particular importance to his own time with the band, glossing over his most musically sound and industry-acknowledged contribution with an incomplete “Ball of Confusion, a song that’s been recorded by the likes of Love and Rockets and Widespread Panic.

Credit Edwards, however, for giving his vocal mates plenty of face time. Chris Arnold took the Eddie Kendricks-style smooth lead on “Treat Her Like A Lady” and the stirring “I Wish It Would Rain,” while often serving as a historical narrator, prefacing the latter with the story of Roger Penzabene’s suicide after writing it. He appropriately reserved “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep ” for his own distinct gospel timbre, but saved the meatiest morsel for himself as the band took the show out with the enduring “My Girl.” Edwards thanked the audience as the song’s immortal three-fourths bassline dropped and it was at that moment that smiles on the Market johns’ faces told the rest of the story as they clutched their new friends close.