“Of all the albums I’ve ever made for mine, I think I like Tenderness the best. Because I got the chance to really write some good things. Even though it never did catch on selling I think one day it will…when people know what I wrote.” – Leroy “Sugar” Bonner
We all have albums that we just missed. Even though we were fans of the artist. Maybe we already had several of their albums in our collection and decided we didn’t need another. Maybe we hadn’t loved the act’s last couple of albums and didn’t give their next one a fair hearing. Maybe we saw the album in a discount bin and figured it just wasn’t very good. Maybe we were focusing on newer artists that seemed more exciting and innovative in the moment. Yet with the benefit of hindsight – when an act is no longer producing new music with regularity, and after key personnel have passed – we can hear that not only did we underrate an album, we actually overlooked a gem.
Tenderness by the Ohio Players is one of those albums.
Originally released in 1981 on the short-lived Boardwalk Records label, Tenderness finds a slimmed-down Ohio Players lineup featuring original members Leroy “Sugar” Bonner, Marshall “Rock” Jones, Ralph “PeeWee” Middlebrooks and Marvin “Merv” Pierce (with a crucial assist from classic-era drummer James “Diamond” Williams) tackling a new decade. The band’s 13th album proved to be unlucky on the charts, but stands today as their last great organic work. Two Otis Redding covers first capture the attention, yet it’s the depth of soulfulness in Bonner’s own compositions and performances that makes Tenderness a must-hear entry in the Ohio Players discography.