Blended from street-corner harmony and American soul radio of the '50s, The Whispers' music has mellowed and aged into a truly tasteful mix of pop, gospel and gentle jazz. Over their nearly 20 years of recording and touring, they have asserted their place in the Temptations/Miracles tradition with a quiet integrity, giving us such memorable hits along the way as "Emergency" and "Olivia (Lost and Turned Out)."
With their 14th album, "Love for Love," they continue the style, embellishing it with an extra touch of romance and a cool- headed application of production skill. In case the casual listener needs a signpost, Side A has been designated "Dancin'," Side B "Romancin'." But the snappy numbers contain plenty of moon/June/spoon for my money, and even the ballads are worthy of a mild-mannered sway.
The title track is the best bet here, a smooth-tempoed, gauzy ballad with a superbly jazzy keyboard solo by George Duke. "Do They Turn You On" starts with a lover's recrimination, then melts into sweetly provocative forgiveness. "Keep On Lovin' Me" is danceably light without being lightweight, and Al Johnson's arrangement of "Lay It on Me" is tailor-made for The Whispers' even vocal layers.
Lyrically, the album's a bit watery; there's that running love-me-till-forever pattern that tends to turn theme into sameness. Yet the voices are impeccable, the instrumentation keeps it all interesting, and, anyway, words aren't really what you listen for in a Whispers album.
"Love for Love" isn't going to keep Marvin Gaye awake nights, but it's fine for those moments when you want your feathers smoothed, not your socks knocked off. A straightforward, unpretentious sort of album, but I think you'll be amused by its flavor. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM THE WHISPERS -- Love for Love (Solar 9 60216-1). THE SHOW THE WHISPERS, Friday at 8 and 11:30 at Constitution Hall.