Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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All the Way From Philadelphia

Seventies Philly soul veterans join forces for sweet covers album

Comprising the Philadelphia-spawned lead singers of the three foremost falsetto groups of late-period soul --the Stylistics' Russell Thompkins Jr., Blue Magic's Ted Mills and the Delfonics' William Hart -- the 3 Tenors of Soul are more than a cheeky gimmick. Conceived and produced by Bobby Eli, a guitarist in the definitive Philly-sound studio band MFSB, they're an oldies act with a brain, like Mavis Staples doing freedom songs. Rather than dipping back into their unduplicatable catalogs, Eli picked them chestnuts by such co-equals as the Spinners, the Bee Gees, Earth, Wind and Fire and the Average White Band. Although the voices have diminished slightly with age, nothing seems forced or flat. Standouts include Isley-Jasper-Isley's scene-setting "Caravan of Love," Hall and Oates' specially composed title saga, and, in a finale that wouldn't be quite so perfect if it wasn't quite so corny, the Dionne Warwick-Elton John-Gladys Knight-Stevie Wonder AIDS-benefit smash, "That's What Friends Are For."

Rolling Stone, Oct. 18, 2007