“In Full Bloom” is the second album by Soul group “Rose Royce”. It was produced by Motown producer Norman Whitfield (on his own label). He was responsible for many of the big Motown hits like “I heard it through the grapevine” and “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”.
Rose Royce had enjoyed success with their first album “Car Wash” which the title track has become a disco anthem still heard at parties today.
This album showed a more mature side to their music and some of these tracks have stood the test of time.
Lead vocalist Gwen Dickey shines and for me she is one of the most underrated soul singers of all time.
The album kicks off with a song I would hope just about everyone reading this is aware of – “Wishing On A Star”. This song sees Dickey sing about a relationship that has broke down and that she is still hoping that reconciliation can be found.
The melody of this song is just something that modern pop songs cannot create. The production is rich but simple in it’s instrumentation. The piano keeps things in time and the bass drives the simple groove forward.
It is a song of pure beauty and has exquisite restraint in it’s overall production.
Track 2 is “You Can’t Please Everybody” which I always think would be a great name for an album despite it setting itself up for an obvious line for reviewers.
This track is a lot more upbeat and fits in with the disco sound of the day. Like a lot of songs such as this they do not get the praise for their musical excellence. Big horns, pumping bass and a beat on the drums to get everyone dancing.
The message in the song is simple and is about being yourself and not trying to please everybody because as we all find out eventually we cannot. This is such a fun and pumping track which if it doesn’t get you moving a just a little then you have no soul.
“Ooh Boy” is another song that was a popular track for the group. It has that simplistic love song theme that you would find on classic Motown tracks but again I love the restraint used in this track. What I mean is that there are moments where Dickey could go full on soul singing gospel leaning vocal gymnastics but she keeps it simple and the end result is just something of pure soulful beauty.
The construct of the song allow Dickey’s voice to come to the forefront despite there being a full orchestra playing but the sound is lower to allow Dickey to shine. A joy to listen to.
Having listened to this album on vinyl the next song “Do Your Dance” is the final song on the first half. “Do Your Dance” is a 9 minute disco funk stomper.
Like many disco songs of the time the theme of dancing and having fun was prevalent throughout the lyric and this is just a slice of that Funkadelic sounding west coast funk of the 70’s.
The second half of the album kicks off with “You’re My World Girl” a swooning soulful love song with trumpeter Kenny Copeland taking the lead vocal reigns. His slick falsetto is very much of the time of 70’s soul groups and this could have been sung by the likes of the Chi-Lites or the Delfonics. Whilst not the most interesting track it’s perfectly executed.
The sixth track is “Love, More Love”. At only 3:15 this turns the funk up a notch again. A very Earth Wind & Fire type track it is perhaps a little over produced with the guitar solos sounding a little inauthentic. Dickeys voice gets a little lost in the sheer raucousness of this stomper. Still a good track though.
“Funk Factory” is again a little short at just 3:05 which is a shame because this had the potential to be more epic in it’s scale. It’s length cages the beast that was building up in this funk frenzy. The horn section on a lot of songs like this is the centre piece but because of the shortness it sounds like a bit of a jam that just got placed on the set to fill things up.
Length isn’t a issue with the final track “It Makes You Feel Like Dancin”. This needs to be heard loud and on some good speakers. The full 8:13 minutes is a funk frenzy that the band had only dipped their toes into during the Car Wash era. The arrangement on this track is expertly produced.
Lyrically the album suffers from just being a bit of a dance album but in that it does it’s job perfectly. The problem with a lot of the music in this Funk/Soul genre is standing out when there is so much similar sounds being produced but with tracks like “Wishing on a Star” Rose Royce showed their ability to produce dance song of the time and timeless classics like the aforementioned track.
This album is well worth a listen and is a masterclass in Jazz/Funk/Soul production and songwriting.