The O'Jays launch solo projects but still together after 50 years

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 28: (L-R) Singers Eric Grant, Eddie Levert and Walter Williams of the O'Jays perform onstage during the 2009 BET Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on June 28, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Walter Williams;Eddie Levert;Eric Grant
Kevin Winter
From left, Eric Grant, Eddie Levert and Walter Williams of the O'Jays perform at the BET Awards on June 28, 2009, in Los Angeles.

(CBS/AP) Eddie Levert and Walter Williams of the O'Jays still tour together, but they're both launching new  solo projects, too.

For more than 50 years, Levert and Williams have been bringing classic R&B melodies to fans of the O'Jays, and on Sunday, the group, which also includes Eric Nolan Grant, joined Patti LaBelle, Kenny "Babyface" Edmunds and Maze for a performance at the New Orleans Arena as part of the Summer Festival Tour.

"This one is special," Williams said of the tour. "You might not get a chance to see this one again."

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the 1972 release of the "Backstabbers" album, described by some as the "pinnacle of Philly soul music." Though it's four decades old, both Levert and Williams said the album, which also sparked the hit "Love Train," and its lyrics remain significant.

Williams said their songs' lyrics can sometimes be deemed controversial, yet in the controversy "they touch everyone's lives."

"I think that's why it (the music) never gets old," he said. "People still need to get on a 'Love Train' and get back to love. We're certainly not seeing that today. 'For the Love of Money,' and what money makes you do, 'Backstabbers' it's all still relevant today.

"The people loved them then and responded to them and we're blessed because they still love them now."

Though older -- Eddie turned 70 in June, Walter will be 69 later this month -- both men said touring and live concerts continue to give them a thrill.

"I still get a kick out of it," Levert said, chuckling. "I still enjoy seeing the crowd react to what I do and it's gratifying to know that people like what you do. We're also seeing younger generations gravitating toward our music. You know we've covered three generations -- grandmother, daughter and granddaughter -- and it's great to see these young kids groove to our music. It makes our mission worthwhile and the journey great."

In addition to touring, both Levert and Williams have launched solo projects.

Levert's "I Still Have It," is his first solo release outside of the group.

"You won't hear a new sound from me," he said of the project. "I'm still doing what I'm used to, what comes naturally to me and what I like to do."

Williams' project is a release of a solo album he launched as a test run two years ago called "Exposed."

"It basically is songs I couldn't do with the O'Jays like standards," he said. "Bill Withers' 'Ain't No Sunshine,' classic songs by Frank Sinatra and Nat Cole. I recorded two more songs, Stevie Wonders' 'Overjoyed,' and an old Mills Brothers' song called 'Smack Dab in the Middle' and we re-released it under a new title, 'Get Your Feet Off my Cadillac.'"

Meanwhile, the group is preparing to work on an anthology album.

"We just have to find the time," Levert said. "Time between touring and personal appearances. You know it's a process to write and produce a project and a very time-consuming thing. We have to dig deep into ourselves and get in a place where you can put that to music. That's not always an easy thing to do."