Follow-Up: Soul man Kyle Maack responds kindly to criticism on Temptations remake

(December 9, 2017) Back in May of this year, we shared a "First Listen" with you that was the debut release from a young blue-eyed soul singer named Kyle Maack, the first artist signed to the 10/30 International record label, which is run by the co-founder and only remaining original member of The Temptations, Dr. Otis Williams (Williams received his honorary doctorate from Stillman College in May 2006).  Maack's first single was a cover of The Temptations' 1984 hit, "Treat Her Like a Lady," and it featured the 2017 lineup of The Temptations - including Williams - on background vocals.  That was one of three Temptations covers on Kyle Maack's debut EP, Shakey Ground, released in August 2017.  The EP concludes with a stirring original ballad penned by Maack and Williams called, "Here I Am."

(December 9, 2017) Back in May of this year, we shared a "First Listen" with you that was the debut release from a young blue-eyed soul singer named Kyle Maack, the first artist signed to the 10/30 International record label, which is run by the co-founder and only remaining original member of The Temptations, Dr. Otis Williams (Williams received his honorary doctorate from Stillman College in May 2006).  Maack's first single was a cover of The Temptations' 1984 hit, "Treat Her Like a Lady," and it featured the 2017 lineup of The Temptations - including Williams - on background vocals.  That was one of three Temptations covers on Kyle Maack's debut EP, Shakey Ground, released in August 2017.  The EP concludes with a stirring original ballad penned by Maack and Williams called, "Here I Am."

It's been a dream come true for Kyle Maack, who's in his mid-20's and grew up on classic R&B, to record and perform with The Temptations, a group he has idolized since boyhood.  (He has taken the stage with The Temptations during some of their concerts this year to sing "Treat Her Like a Lady.")  So while Maack has certainly gained a following, he did receive some negative feedback on his Shakey Ground EP.  Unfortunately, this included comments made by some who called Maack's "Treat Her Like a Lady" cover "horrible," "horrendous," "an injustice," "unacceptable" and "an abomination" to the memory of Ali-Ollie Woodson, who sang lead on the original record.

Despite such harsh criticism that could've easily cut him down, Kyle Maack has risen above the hate and released a statement on Facebook, kindly telling those with negative opinions that they've been heard, appreciated, and that he and his boss/mentor, Dr. Otis Williams, are moving forward with his music.  His statement reads, in part:

"To those people [who were critical of his EP], I say thank you for listening and for giving it a try!

Sure, the Temptations are on [my record]. That in itself is AMAZING. But that doesn’t mean that the Tempts’ fan base was the intended target audience. Ask Rod Stewart (or even... Bruce Willis) and I’m sure they’ll tell you the same thing. The Tempts fans who just so happened to love it are along for the ride like the rest of us!

It’s the sentimental value of having the Temptations share their talent on my recordings that makes it special. I’ve known the group since I was a boy. I was inspired by them. I studied them. My own Godfather was in the group for a decade. So, as a way to show my appreciation for what the Tempts music has done for me, the first three tracks were my love letter to the group and their music. Nobody was trying to be or sing the songs like David [Ruffin], Dennis [Edwards], or Ali [Ollie Woodson]. There will always only be one of each of those gentlemen, and I will forever be in awe of their abilities.

Having said THAT, we are turning the page on this chapter. Being a cover artist was never the intent, so Otis and I are moving forward on securing future Kyle Maack fans with new, original content. Starting with a music video for “Here I Am”, the fourth track from [Shakey Ground], we promise to keep it fresh, vibrant, and original!

More cool stuff on the way. Look out.

- Maack"

Personally, I think that was very well-said.  Despite having his work insulted and criticized by a few, Kyle Maack responded kindly to those individuals, reminding them of his good intent, and his love for the music and the R&B fan.  It's definitely not the natural human tendency to answer criticism with kindness, so I applaud Maack for turning the other cheek, so to speak.

Now, let me draw your attention to something he said: "As a way to show my appreciation for what the Tempts music has done for me, the first three tracks were my love letter to the group and their music."  That's the key right there.  Kyle Maack covered The Temptations' music on his debut EP, Shakey Ground, out of appreciation.  There's nothing disrespectful about that; instead, that's the height of respect.  Besides, what artist - new or established - doesn't recognize their musical influences in some way?  Think about Boyz II Men and Gregory Porter's latest releases.  On "Under the Streetlight," Boyz II Men covered songs by Little Anthony & The Imperials, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers and more in order to pay homage to the doo-wop genre that paved the way for their street corner harmony sound.  With "Nat King Cole & Me," Gregory Porter honored Cole's music because it was a source of fatherly advice that Porter sorely missed out on as a youngster.  Both albums were recorded, not to mimic the legendary artists, but to show appreciation for their work.

That brings me to the next point in Kyle Maack's statement: "Nobody was trying to be or sing the songs like David, Dennis, or Ali."  As we know, the voices of David Ruffin, Dennis Edwards, and Ali-Ollie Woodson are part of The Temptations' enduring legacy, and nothing will change that.  But Kyle Maack was trying to - and succeeded at - sounding like himself.  His vocals, in addition to the musical arrangements, put a fresh spin on classic tunes.  And it does not take anything away from whatever Temptation sang lead on the original version.  Clearly, covering a song does not equate to trying to sound like the original artist or attempting to make a carbon copy of the original recording.  Think about Luther Vandross for a moment.  Though not considered a cover artist, Luther covered songs like nobody's business, but he wasn't trying to sound like anybody but himself.  He released covers of "Since I Lost My Baby," "If This World Were Mine," "Knocks Me Off My Feet," "The Closer I Get to You," "Hello," and "Always & Forever," just to name a few.  But did anyone accuse him of disrespecting David Ruffin, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Lionel Richie, or Johnnie Wilder, Jr. (of Heatwave), whose voices are heard on the original songs?  No.  And rather than criticize and compare Luther's renditions to the recordings that preceded his, we recognize that Luther was simply masterful at taking a song and making it his own. 

So what does that prove?  That no legendary song is off limits for other artists to cover, not even a new one.  So when you hear a new artist cover a song you really like, don't view it as the unforgivable sin.  Remember why artists cover songs in the first place - appreciation.  That said, you don't have to stop liking the originals, but there's no need to hate on the covers either, especially when they're approved by a legend whose voice is heard on the original records.  That is the case with Kyle Maack

Dr. Otis Williams presents Kyle Maack!  It's just like how Smokey Robinson presented HUMAN NATURE - Australia's #1 vocal group - when the quartet began their now long-running Las Vegas residency with a Motown tribute show.  Undoubtedly then, with the support of his boss/mentor Dr. Otis Williams, The Temptations as a whole, and even a daughter of original Temptation Melvin Franklin, Kyle Maack is certainly on solid, not shakey ground!  Now, if you're willing to give him a fair shake, take a listen (with open ears) to his debut EP, Shakey Ground, and stay tuned for what's next with him -- including the upcoming music video for his original song, "Here I Am." I certainly will. 

By Darnea N. Samuels

Darnea N. Samuels is a Washington, DC-based sports radio producer, news personality, writer, and host of her own radio show, "The Sound of Soul with D'Nicole" on Takoma Radio, where she shares her love of classic R&B/soul music. You can read her blog here and connect with her on Twitter.

 
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