Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)" by The Temptations

The Temptations reflect on the troubled state of the world on their powerful political track “Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today),” released in 1970. It was written by the legendary Motown songwriting/production team of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. This hard-hitting slice of psychedelic soul is among the best of the Whitefield/Strong compositions, which is saying a lot considering their sterling oeuvre. The track effectively captures the chaos, uncertainty, fear and collective anger during that period. The instrumentation—provided by the Funk Brothers—is tremendous. Bob Babbitt sets the tone with a foreboding bass line, giving the feeling of a ticking time bomb counting down to detonation. It’s one of the most iconic and recognized bass lines in popular music.

Additionally, the track is filled with ferocious horn lines and trippy sound effects provided by guitarist Dennis Coffey using Echoplex.  It also contains some marvelous harmonica work from Mike Campbell. And the Temps bring tons of soul and passion to their vocals. Lead singer Dennis Edwards really shines on this track. His gritty vocal performance is filled with righteous anger and conviction, and his rapid-fire delivery on some of the verses gives the song a strong sense of urgency. The song touches on many of the burning sociopolitical issues of the early 1970s: rising unemployment, segregation, drug addiction, civil unrest, racism, corrupt politicians, gun control and war. Sadly, most of these issues are still big concerns today, making the song as timely and relevant as ever.

“Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” had a very strong showing on the charts, peaking at #2 on the U.S. R&B single charts and #3 on the pop charts. It also charted in other parts of the world, climbing to #7 on the UK singles charts and reaching #5 on the singles chart in Norway. The song was featured on the Temptations’ 1970 album Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.

The track has been covered by a slew of artists from various genres. Some of the notable artists who have covered the song include Tina Turner (with the B.E.F.), Love and Rockets, The Undisputed Truth, Duran Duran, Anthrax and the Neville Brothers. And Whoopi Goldberg performed it in the 1993 comedy Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.

The lineup for the Temptations at the time of the song’s release was Dennis Edwards, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin and Otis Williams.

Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today) at Amazon

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