March 01, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST

Emotionally Yours

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
We gave it a B-

On the first half of their umpteenth album, Emotionally Yours, the O’Jays struggle to create something that could be called ”old jack swing,” moving to modernize classic gospel-soul with electronic beats and even a rapper (on ”Respect”). Given hackneyed songs (except for Bob Dylan’s 1985 ”Emotionally Yours”) and predictable dance-pop production, not even the booming glory of Eddie Levert’s lead vocals can rescue them. But the second half opens with a second version of ”Emotionally Yours,” tricked up with an old-fashioned gospel choir in which such contemporary stars as Keith Sweat and the Levert brothers (Eddie’s sons) and such veterans as James ”J.T.” Taylor and Cissy Houston pay the O’Jays the ultimate tribute by singing pure backup. It’s no gimmick at all, just one of the most emotionally triumphant versions of a Dylan song ever made, a record that ranks with the most glorious of the O’Jays’ 30-year career. The five tracks that follow, particularly the preaching ballad ”If I Find Love Again,” seem lifted up by its example and the result is, if not a return to greatness, at least a glimmer of it. B-

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