After losing its way in recent years, the Philadelphia soul team has found its way back home on the O'Jays' new album, "My Favorite Person." The excess baggage of spiritual pseudo-profundities and production overkill has been jettisoned, and the record returns to the simple virtues of three voices pouring out love, lust and heartbreak. The strings, brass and synthesizers are still present but are tastefully restrained. They provide the breezy, gliding momentum that distinguishes Philly soul.
The O'Jays' three strong voices emerge from this seamless background with gritty, church-learned singing. Sammy Strain sings gravelly, gut-spilling lead while Eddie Levert and Walt Williams testify to his honesty with echoing falsettos and harmony shouts. The contrast between these down- home vocals and the uptown instrumental backing captures perfectly the paradoxes of the trio's upwardly mobile black audience.
The Philly soul stable of writers has given the trio eight consistently good songs. Kenneth Gamble has written them two Smokey Robinson-like valentines, including the title tune, that the O'Jays croon convincingly. James and Bunny Siegler have contributed the wonderfully melodramatic soap opera ballad, "Your Body's Here With Me (But Your Mind's on the Other Side of Town)," which Strain declaims with appropriate anguish. Levert & Williams wrote "Out in the Real World" themselves; they sing the streetwise advice to a schoolboy with unassailable authority. Levert and Williams have also joined Gene McFadden and John Whitehead to write two strong up-tempo tunes where the voices snap off the syllables cleanly over the big sharp beat. THE RECORD, THE SHOW THE ALBUM: My Favorite Person (Philadelphia International, FZ 37999). THE CONCERT: The O'Jays with Atlantic Starr at Constitution Hall, Saturday and Sunday at 8 and 11:30.