The danger of using orchestration to suggest luxury is that it can turn a record inert, putting up a discreet rope between the audience and the opulence: the effect is like a crowd barrier in a stately home, protecting the rooms from gawkers but also reminding you that they’re for admiring, not living in. The reason the Philly soul of Gamble and Huff is so gorgeous is that they never put that rope out: their productions are palaces, but ones you can play around in, fully inhabit. Or, like the Three Degrees, you can just wander through them, awestruck into rapturous ooohs and aaahs.
The Degrees reputedly didn’t want to sing such a simple song, though changed their mind on hearing what Gamble and Huff did with it. Their fears aren’t without foundation, mind you, as their voices are mostly just more (amazingly plush) furniture. But this makes the moments when the ache breaks through even more compelling: the song may sound like heaven but it’s about limbo, the uncertainty of newfound joy. As a listener this is the kind of waiting room you wouldn’t mind spending eternity in, but the coos and sighs here hide desperation behind their satisfaction – a perfect balance of bliss and yearning.