Song: “Smiling Faces Sometimes”
Artist: The Undisputed Truth
Album: The Undisputed Truth (1971)
Long before mixtapes were a thing, Motown record producer Norman Whitfield was DJ’ing his own trip-funk soundtrack; getting his name out via his own collective of hippie soul singers on a succinct portfolio of R&B jams, entitled The Undisputed Truth.
It was the handcrafted group’s breakout release: an 11-track-deep LP that could craftily lure the orthodox Smokey Robinson radio fan down a rabbit hole of deep-soul psychedelia, chittering snares, and purring bass riffs.
Like Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, Roy Ayers’ Coffey and Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly, Whitfield’s 1971 Undisputed compilation follows suit in the early ’70s trend of snappy, ultra-cool grooves composed by the low-profile recording artist.
Amid two funkified covers (“Like a Rolling Stone”, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”), deep-groove syncopated cuts (“California Soul”, “That’s What The World is Today”), and enough slow jam interludes (“We’ve Got A Way Out of Love”), side 2 houses the smoothest track, [and Top-40 hit], “Smiling Faces Sometimes”.
A snooty strings-and-bass overture, some bongos, and a couple side-eyed “Can You Dig It?”s ease you into the jazzy track’s deep-seated voodoo. Contrary to the standard scowl, lead singer Joe Harris warns of the opposite facial expression: (“Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend; Smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within…”). With each of his smoky-toned belts, the rhythm guitar flickers and the bass goes wild.