The O’Jays rekindle the spirit — and the sumptuous sound — of Philadelphia soul in the Seventies on new single “I Got You.” The song will appear on The Last Word, which the group says will be their final LP.
“I Got You” offers a message of reassurance in a time of political tumult: “Even if the sky begins to fall, and even if they try to build that wall, and even if the bomb goes off and the world is set on fire, I got your back.” “It’s almost gospel,” says the O’Jays’ Walter Williams. “It’s good news. Whatever happens, don’t worry about it — I’m gonna be there. That’s a hell of a statement. It works in a friendship; it works certainly in a relationship.”
Philadelphia producers like Thom Bell and Gamble and Huff were famous for swaddling soul in impeccable orchestral arrangements. That’s the stuff of “I Got You:” Strings flutter and twirl above the singers, while muted brass swells beneath them. The opening notes on the guitar in “I Got You” also hint at another Philadelphia classic, the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around.” “‘I Got You’ is close to what the O’Jays used to be,” says founding member Eddie Levert.
The Last Word is set for release on April 19. The album includes contributions from the songwriter Sam Hollander — known more for pop and rock hits like Panic! at the Disco’s “High Hopes” — and Betty Wright, another Seventies soul hit-maker.
The O’Jays’ last non-Christmas album, Imagination, came out in 2004.