Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 7: The Delfonics, "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)"

Artist: The Delfonics
Song:"Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)"
Album: Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time) (single)
Year: 1970

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As the 1970's began, there were countless styles that were melting into new sounds, and though the rise of the "hard rock," glam, and folk sounds were certainly the three that gained the most attention, it was within some of the more quiet musical movements where the true gems of the era can be found.  The deep grooves from the funk era and the more mellow, exploratory sounds of the psychedelic sound were coming together in number of different ways, and one of the most impressive was what would become termed as the "Philadelphia Soul" sound, and few groups embodied this sound better than The Delfonics.  The way in which the group took elements of the "do wop" sound and created some of the most beautiful and smooth sounds in recorded history places them high atop the list of the greatest soul acts in history, and many of their songs remain musical standards to this day.  Truth be told, one would be hard pressed to find a group with tighter, more perfectly executed harmonies, and it is the vocal dexterity of the trio that lives on as their most impressive element.  However, it is also the amazing musical arrangements over which they sang that vaulted them to such heights.  Though the group released a number of unforgettable singles throughout their career, there is no finer example of the power of The Delfonics than one can experience in their 1970 single, "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)."

Though it may seem like a rather traditional musical arrangement, the fact of the matter is, the sounds found all across "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" are rather unique on a number of levels.  First and foremost, they are exceptionally sparse in most places, and this stands in rather stark contrast to the "wall of sound" approach that defined much of the music of the previous decade.  While this is not to say that the music is lacking or incomplete, the reality is that it certainly plays a secondary role to the vocals throughout the entire song.  However, even in the stripped-down sound found here, the music is just as necessary as any other song, and there is an amazing level of emotion and atmosphere created by each instrument.  The sway that comes from the almost slow-ska sound of the guitar is absolutely fantastic, and it is perfectly complimented by the light, steady drumming.  Yet one cannot deny the fact that the string arrangement and piano are the keys to the song, as they give "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" a gliding, almost ethereal tone that has rarely been matched on any other recording.  The way that the horns are able to punctuate the sound at various times is equally impressive, and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" is one of the finest examples of the power and emotion that can be found within more subtle, almost quiet musical arrangements.

Yet there is not a moment on the song that deviates from the reality that "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" is all about the vocal performance, and it remains an unmatched achievement more than forty years after its first release.  It is within the singing where the true definition of the term "smooth" can be found, and though many groups have tried to match their sound, The Delfonics remain in a class all their own.  In both the solos and shared vocals, each of the three singers excels to unprecedented levels, and the group harmonies are the epitome of the "Philadelphia Soul" sound.  Striking the ideal balance between the classic sound of "do wop" and the power and intrigue of the soul movement, the singing all across "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" is such that once heard, can never be forgotten.  The trio easily works all across the vocal scale, and it is this ability to excel at every turn that makes The Delfonics performance so spectacular.  Yet it is also the fact that the group has such a perfect lyric to fit the mood that makes "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" so amazing, and the words remain some of the most famous in all of music history.  Without question one of the most accurate representations of a frustrated heart, the trio are able to perfectly capture a myriad of emotions, and this serves as the final piece to a truly extraordinary vocal performance.

On both short and long term timelines, the impact of "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" is easily seen, and there is no question that it is one of the most important recordings in all of music history.  Soon after its release, countless other groups attempted to copy the style and sound of The Delfonics, and the "Philadelphia Soul" sound enjoyed a rather significant popularity.  However, while these other groups certainly made a number of great recordings, "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" stood far above the rest, and it was awarded a Grammy Award for the best r&b performance of the year.  This in itself would be enough to cement the songs' legacy as one of the greatest in history, but the fact that so many artists have recorded their own versions pushes it to an even higher level of reverence.  With cover versions made by everyone from Aretha Franklin to The Trammps to New Kids On The Block, the significance and legacy of "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" are undeniable, and there has truly never been another soul recording that has matched the power and presence of the original.  Whether it is the highly emotive, yet rather skimpy musical arrangement or the absolutely breathtaking vocal performance found all across the track, the song has a musical perfection unlike any other song in history, and it is this reality that makes The Delfonics' 1970 single, "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)," such a special and unforgettable musical moment.

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