The mighty O’Jays may be in semi-retirement, as both remaining original members Eddie Levert and Walter Williams have stated several times in the past few years.
But that doesn’t mean the trio, which also features longtime third member Eric Grant, can’t still hit the road occasionally to break out the smooth moves and soulful music that have been an indelible part of the soundtrack to many people’s lives. On Sunday night, the legendary group will be the headline act for a concert by three R&B vocal groups, also including New Jack Swing era’s After 7 and 1970s balladeers Enchantment at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square.
The proud Canton-bred Rock and Roll Hall of Famers’ most recent album was Christmas With the O’Jays, released in 2010, but they have 50 years of hit songs from which to draw, including classic radio mainstays such as Backstabbers, Love Train and the oft-licensed For the Love of Money, which was selected for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 2006.
Walter Williams has described the group’s current status as being in the “twilight of our career,” but the two septuagenarian soul men and Grant, who joined in 1995, still have the desire and energy to entertain people as they’ve done for much of their adult lives.
Their tour partners’ histories may not be quite as storied or filled with as many accolades, but for fans of R&B, After 7 and Enchantment offer several memorable hits.
After 7 began as the trio of Kevon and Melvin Edmonds and Keith Mitchell, and appeared on the R&B scene in the late 1980s during the New Jack Swing era. The group’s debut album featured considerable songwriting and production help from the brothers’ already famous sibling, R&B singer/producer/legend Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, and his former partner L.A. Reid during their LaFace label’s heyday.
The group’s sound was marked by the keening, emotion-drenched voices of the Edmonds brothers. Their eponymously titled debut album, released in 1989, sold platinum and contained two No. 1 R&B hits, the ballad Ready or Not and the peppier Can’t Stop, which both crossed over into the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10, with the former tune becoming a Quiet Storm and smooth jazz mainstay.
The group released two more gold-selling albums, Takin’ My Time and Reflections, before breaking up. Currently the group, still anchored by Kevon Edmonds, tours periodically, including an appearance at Lock 3 in Akron in 2006.
The Detroit-based Enchantment is an R&B band that had a few hits in the mid-1970s, including the ballads Gloria and Sunshine, both from their 1976 debut; and its equally smooth follow-up, the R&B chart-topping It’s What You Need, from sophomore effort Once Upon a Dream. The uptempo funk jams If You’re Ready (Here It Comes) and Come On and Ride also charted.