When Sister Sledge recorded their debut album Circle of Love in 1974, all four members of the group were still in their teens -- Debbie Sledge, the oldest member, was 19, while the youngest, Kathy, was only 15. However, there's nothing bubblegum about Circle of Love. If Sister Sledge sounded like a female equivalent of the early Jackson 5 on 1973's "Mama Never Told Me," this vinyl LP found the Philadelphians sounding more like a younger version of the Three Degrees (who were also from Philly). This LP had a gem of a single in the haunting "Love, Don't You Go Through No Changes on Me," which wasn't huge but did reach number 31 on the R&B charts. The rest of the album isn't that strong, nor is it in a class with Sister Sledge's late-1970s/early-1980s work with Chic and Narada Michael Walden. Nonetheless, it's a decent, if uneven, collection of Philly soul, and the siblings handle themselves well on material ranging from the Gamble & $Huff-minded "Pain Reliever" and the charming "Cross My Heart" to the Thom Bell/Linda Creed ballad "Give in to Love." Out of print since the 1970s, Circle of Love isn't among Sister Sledge's essential albums, but it has historic value and deserves to be reissued on CD. ~ Alex Henderson
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