The Moments’ On Top is a perfect example of symphonic soul. Amongst true heads, this is considered the most valuable of all their albums; an original copy of this LP, if you can find one, starts at around $75. Alongsde contemporaneous acts from the early 70s – The Chi-lites, The Stylistics, The Delfonics, The Futures, Blue Magic and The Main Ingredient – The Moments exuded all that was compelling about deep, harmony-drenched, string-laden soul.
The standout here is undoubtedly “To You with Love”, a floating, tender ballad sung by Harry Ray that features the group’s patented handclap-tambourine combo, sweetly repetitive strings, serene guitar and gentle piano. It was famously sampled by J Dilla for “Last Donut Of The Night” – the gut-wrenching finale to his seminal Donuts. Concentrating solely on its sampled history would do The Moments a huge disservice, but its crucial appearance at the climax of Donuts directed fresh generations of pre-disposed soul fans to the absolute canon. Judged entirely on its merit, it’s one of the most heart-breaking songs of any decade and worth the price of admission alone. It’s the sweetest, most goose-bump inducing 3 minutes of aural bliss you’re ever likely to be exposed to.
If that wasn’t enough, On Top spawned two minor R&B hits: “All I Have” and “Lucky Me”, each featuring Billy Brown’s ice-melting falsetto. Opener “All I Have” is a sumptuous introduction to the album. With melancholic, understated guitar licks, twinkling keys and heartbeat drums, it’s a gem. The triumphant “Lucky Me” is simply gorgeous; all gentle chimes, swirling strings and, again, scarcely believable falsetto soaring atop proud horns.
Also included are two singles that are different from anything the group had ever done; “I Can’t Help It” and “That’s How It Feels.” The former features thundering kicks and crashing cymbals underneath floating flutes, progressively stabbing strings and horns. The yearning vocals embody an almost Temptations-like delivery at times. "That’s How It Feels” is a two-parter wherein Brown’s voice bestrides a bed of rhythms on a tune more aptly defined as a love suite than a song. Dripping in breakbeats, piano and strings, Brown describes the devastation of losing the one you love before the track brilliantly switches up with a sweeping string-led chorus and heavenly harmonies.
The only genuine uptempo number, where anomalous happiness reigns, is “Sweeter As The Days Go By,” led by Brown in his natural, gospel-inspired tenor. A charming but sorrow-filled “I Lost One Bird In The Hand” is an impressive, slow lamenter crooned by Ray, with horns and strings dominating the lushly arranged backdrop. Appropriately, we end on that down-lifting note that we’ve all come for: “Candy Shack.”
The audio for On Top comes from the original analogue tapes and has been remastered for vinyl by Be With regular Simon Francis. We’ve taken the same care with the memorable cover art, handling the reproduction duties with the utmost attention to detail.
The Moments, "On Top"
Be With Records