Ashford & Simpson made their name knocking out tunes for Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, Aretha, Diana Ross and Chaka Khan before joining a long list of songwriters who one day decided to put their own names on the sleeves.
Their debut album from this husband and wife team takes its cue from the pop classics they wrote at Motown, but there is no doubting the quality of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson’s voices. It’s true that siblings always produce the best harmonies, but married couples are not far behind.
Opener Bend Me sets the tone as Ashford leads off with a glorious vocal before Simpson takes it on as they effortlessly mesh their voices over a template that became known as quiet storm. Essentially this is a mix of that Motown pop sensibility, and the more complex soul stylings Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were exploring.
Have You Ever Tired It? is splendidly saucy which only a married couple could probably get away with on record and again the harmonies are subtle. This is a big record as Ashford & Simpson had clearly been playing attention at Hitsville USA as the production on tracks like I’d Know You Anywhere is bold and not playing it safe.
For fans of sophisticated souls Gimme Something Real is a joyous lost classic as two big talents find their own voices in a way that doesn’t sound dated and is a reminder that quality songwriting will always shine through in any genre,