Posts Tagged ‘Smokey Robinson’

The Miracles

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

SHOP AROUND / The Miracles:

Side 1:

Listen: Shop Around / The Miracles

Listen: Who’s Loving You / The Miracles

Side 2:

Listen: Ain’t It Baby / The Miracles

Listen: The Only One I Love / The Miracles

This UK EP and the US hit single that sparked it, ‘Shop Around’, were released in 1961.

1961! Can you believe it?

Bill Robinson, lead voice and writer for The Miracles, known to the greater populous, we mere mortals, as Smokey Robinson…well it just seems impossible that he started that long ago. His songs and mainstream success with Smokey Robinson & The Miracles being so ubiquitous, seems like yesterday.

Pretty safe question to ask: “Has Smokey Robinson ever written a bad song?” Hmm, maybe not.

For all the great songwriters you or I might name check, this fellow has outdone each and every one when you stop to actually look at his output through the years.

Unquestionably a higher form of life.

The Marvelettes

Friday, December 6th, 2013

THE MARVELETTES / The Marvelettes:

Side 1:

Listen: Too Many Fish In The Sea / The Marvelettes

Listen: He’s A Good Guy (Yes He Is) / The Marvelettes

Side 2:

Listen: You’re My Remedy / The Marvelettes

Listen: Little Girl Blue / The Marvelettes

If you believe all the accusations contained in the handful of detailed Motown history books on the market, The Marvelettes got the second tier of important songs coming off the in-house songwriting assembly line. The cream of the most obviously commercial works went to The Supremes. It had been deemed early on that they were the label’s female superstars, and so The Marvelettes had fewer home run hits, but in the end, came off more intellectual. One might even slot them in as Motown’s biggest cult group.

Mind you, The Supremes were great, I loved them. The world loved them. But The Marvelettes, they had the darker slant, minor key at times, thereby giving them edge, even a touch of danger.

Their patch of Smokey Robinson written and produced ’66 to ’68 singles rate amongst Motown’s highest calibre. ‘The Hunter Gets Captured By THe Game’ and ‘My Baby Must Be A Magician’ to name a few.

But this EP, with earlier songs from ’63 – ’64 and their accompanying Motown bounce, mark a time when all things were a bit more juvenile and created a bit more equal, and the first division songs went around to all.

In the end, my two cents maintains The Marvelettes were to The Supremes what The Rolling Stones were to The Beatles. And I just love that.

LaBrenda Ben & The Beljeans

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Listen: The Chaperone / LaBrenda Ben & The Beljeans

LaBrenda Ben was an early Motown signing, releasing ‘Camel Walk’ b/w ‘The Chaperone’ in December ’62. By the end of ’63 though, with just two Gordy singles on the market, she and her group were dropped, thereby also becoming an early roster casualty. Too bad. Sure sounds like she could sing to me, even have succeeded with some Holland-Dozier-Holland or Smokey Robinson songs.

Years later, this B side gained some traction in Northern Soul clubs. The label eventually repressed ‘The Chaperone’ as an A side, this time on Motown (M 1033) as opposed to the original Gordy (G 7009). In keeping with Northern Soul’s formula of non hit Motown sounding knock-offs though, ‘The Chaperone’ more than fits the bill. Just shy of a real chorus, the metallic thumps and all the right jingle jangles were almost enough to cover for lack of one. Records like this came off the label’s conveyer belt as often as cars did down the street. All in all, ‘The Chaperone’ might have worked if only it had gotten some airplay as opposed to being relegated to the flip.

Listen: I Can’t Help It, I Gotta Dance / LaBrenda Ben

Cursed with a seemingly misspelled stage name, LaBrenda’s back up singers’ moniker, The Beljeans, probably didn’t help.

Looks as though that opinion wasn’t mine alone, given they were nowhere in sight on the label copy for their followup and swan song.

No idea who was making the decisions around Motown then, but legend has it Berry Gordy was a major control freak, and he clearly knew a hit. So how did ‘I Can’t Help It, I Gotta Dance’ end up as a B side? I thought lightning never struck twice.

Not only, as with ‘The Chaperone’, was ‘I Can’t Help It, I Gotta Dance’ the noticeably stronger track, the song was about The Contours. And they were on the label for God’s sake.

Bob Brady & The Con Chords

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Listen: More, More, More Of Your Love / Bob Brady & The Con Chords
More, More, More Of Your Love / Bob Brady & The Con Chords

Not only did Bob Brady sound like Smokey Robinson, but for this 1967 single, he and the band, or maybe their label Chariot, decided to cover one of his songs. Like many Motown knock offs and/or non hits, it’s picked up a Northern Soul following. Great single, and not too expensive having just done a quick eBay search.

No idea when or where this one entered my life, but it wasn’t at the time. Randomly pulling a box of around 300 singles out of storage earlier today, yet another treasure trove got unearthed. Seriously, why I have absolutely no recollection of this box or it’s history is fascinating.

Bob Brady & The Con Chords were a white act from Baltimore, and the intro and verses of ‘More, More, More Of Your Love’ sound so much like The Amen Corner’s ‘Bend Me, Shape Me’, I’m wondering who was zooming who. I’ve played this so many times this morning, my entire family literally fled to safer ground.

More on the band and their history courtesy Funky 16 Corners.

Mary Wells

Friday, February 26th, 2010

MaryWellsBeatMeUSA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole
MaryWellsPunchUK, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole

Listen: You Beat Me To The Punch / Mary Wells MaryWellsPunch.mp3

I agree with those who say Mary Wells was the first lady of Motown, well if I turn a blind eye to Brenda Holloway, Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell that is. I guess because she had the biggest pop crossover hit out of the bunch with ‘My Guy’ sort of justifies it. Whatever, she had the voice and the presence. There are some fantastic shots of her on various UK album sleeves, and that blond hair dye job turned brassy orange – I just love it.

No question, she and Smokey Robinson were a perfect match and gave her the biggest successes. Same with The Marvelettes. It’s just something about his productions, maybe it’s the drum sound or use of vibes combined with handclaps. Some magic recipe was definitely at work, I never could put my finger on it though.

MaryWellsTwoUSA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole
MaryWellsTwoUKA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole

Listen: Two Lovers / Mary Wells MaryWellsTwoLovers.mp3

Then there’s the lyrical twist, most prevalent on ‘Two Lovers’. It doesn’t get much more clever than this. What happens at the end of this song again, how does the two lovers thing play out? I forget every time.

It’s a drag about the royalty issue that drove Mary Wells from Motown. Once burned, it’s sometimes hard for certain folks to move beyond it – by all counts, that summed up her attitude toward Berry Gordy. And so the downward spiral began.

MaryWellsDearLover, Mary Wells, Atco, Carl Davis
MaryWellsDearLoverUKA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole

Listen: Dear Lover / Mary Wells MaryWellsDearLover.mp3

The fact that ‘Dear Lover’ was substandard compared to any of the Smokey songs, in a way, became the appeal. I do love a struggle to polish up something fairly mediocre in the world of singles and follow-ups. I find it rather interesting, the way all parties involved go through the motions, hoping no one else will notice that it’s actually not very good.

In the case of ‘Dear Lover’, seems producer Carl Davis basically tried copying the Motown sound – unsuccessfully. Is that a description of Northern Soul or what? Exactly the whole point of the genre, making substandard copy attempts glorious in their own way.

Probably the most Northern of any Mary Wells track, it’s absolutely become a favorite.

Marvin Gaye

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

MarvinStubborn, Marvin Gaye, Oriole, Tamla, Motown

Listen: Stubborn Kind Of Fellow / Marvin Gaye MarvinStubborn.mp3

Neck to neck, it’s a real tossup which guy epitomizes the early 60′s mod / soul sound: Smokey Robinson or Marvin Gaye. Funny enough, it’s as strong a debate as you might expect around The Beatles / The Rolling Stones challenge. At least at some of the pubs in North London, where the Tamla guys seem to be fixtures on a Sunday afternoon. I’d never thought about it actually. My barometer was always tuned to what The Rolling Stones were covering, so I’d lean towards Marvin.

Not sure why ‘Stubborn Kind Of Fellow’ never seems to show up on comp cd’s or anthologies, not any that I have, given it was his debut UK single and all. Besides, is there any other Motown based release that credits The Vandellas on the label?

MarvinWitness, Marvin Gaye, Oriole, Tamla, Motown

Listen: Can I Get A Witness / Marvin Gaye MarvinWitness.mp3

This original paced version took some getting used to on first listen way back when. I knew the faster ‘Can I Get A Witness’ from ENGLAND’S NEWEST HIT MAKERS. Don’t shoot me, I was far from the only kid in America that got my soul music from the UK bands instead of pop radio, early on that is. Now that faster Rolling Stones take just feels wrong, but hats off to them for introducing American middle class kids to their own culture.

It’s pretty dramatic the difference between early and later Marvin Gaye. Even more than Stevie Wonder, but way less than say, Underworld. I think they take the cake. Check out that first album.

As with both singles above, these mono vinyl pressings possess a sound absolutely no other format can enhance or replace.

Spyder Turner

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

spyderstand, MGM, Spyder Turner, Billy Stewart, Ben E. King, Sirius, James Brown, Eddie Kendricks

Listen: Stand By Me / Spyder Turner Spyder.mp3

This version of ‘Stand By Me’ is the one way too many people overlooked or more likely, sadly never heard – despite it being a big US hit (#3 Pop, #12 RnB) in ’67. The accompanying album is great too. If you stumble on a copy, buy it.

Credit to Sirius Radio. I caught this one while listening during a recent JetBlue flight. I don’t recall the station’s name, maybe The Joint or something like that.

A possible blame for his short career may indeed be MGM Records. They just didn’t have the roster, and therefore the leverage, when it came to RnB. A+ for trying though.

Listen through until the end – he does some killer vocal impersonations. The Billy Stewart take is spot on and Jackie Wilson’s is priceless. They’re all pretty sweet.