"It almost seems funny, but the tougher the life of this person, the more it is bordered with barricades imposed by society, politics, a tough existence, the more the Moon will drive the imagination and the need to create in the world a small world that is only his, in which he is free to read, write, paint, travel, believe that true values are not lost by gathering around him intellectuals, artists, people of style and class"
Tammi Terrell “You Ain’t Living ‘Til You’re Lovin’ (1967, Unreleased. From Come On And See Me: The Complete Solo Recordings, 2010)
So it came up in conversation last night, in a week of conversations where the phone call would oddly drop when this subject came up. I finally made it through that conversation to that moment of honesty, and it’s pretty much summed up with this solo-come duet that Tammi Terrell recorded.
This particular effort was one of the clear examples of Tammi laying down a complete lead by herself, the addition of Marvin came later (if you compare the duet version, it’s pretty obvious that it’s not a re-record of Tammi’s lead). This is an apt metaphor for said conversation, gotta lay down what you have and hear who heeds your call, right?
Anyways, to this, the last day of Mars in Libra be one of the last that I fly solo. Sappy I know, sometimes the music hits me in a personal way, y’all. And here’s hoping as the year slides past the mid point, 2014 brings you all the love you need for livin’ as well.
Chuck Jackson “I Need You” (Wand 179, Pop #75, 1965)
*Happy Belated Birthday Chuck Jackson*
Former Del-Viking and Prince of early 60’s uptown soul Chuck Jackson celebrated birthday #77 yesterday. Although he didn’t release the biggest of chart entries through his multi-decade recording career, he did craft some of the finest efforts in terms of R&B Crooners during the 1960’s.
Most overlooked is his run of moderate hits from 1964 through 1966. More attention (deservedly) goes in this period to his duets with Maxine Brown, but his solo output, much of which made moderate entry ways into the Billboard Hot 100, is also worth a listen.
Although his success wasn’t top flight, the material and the writing/production teams that worked with him were. So here we find his first chart entry of ‘65 being from the pens of Goffin & King. This hymnal of an R&B song deserved more attention than it got then, so here’s hoping a digital spin or two gives it a signal boost 50 years on.
Patrice Holloway “Lucky, My Boy” (Capitol 5680-B, 1966)
Luck be a Holloway tonight. The sisters of Watts spent a large part of the mid 60’s moonlighting for other labels along with having deals with major labels; Brenda with Motown of course, and Patrice with Capitol. I guess it was lucky of the both of them to never get caught as they twisted and twiddled from label to label trying out different sounds and sites.
It is worth noting that their big label efforts were extremely glossy top flight efforts, even if they didn’t prove lucky on the Billboard Hot 100 every time. This easy breezy breath of praise composed the B-side of Patrice’s Capitol debut. Although neither side charted, like her sister’s version of "He’s My Kind Of Fellow," it works splendidly on a Midsummer’s Night worthy of dreaming.
Dionne Warwick “(In The) Land Of Make Believe” (From the LP Make Way For Dionne Warwick, 1964)
It wasn’t just the summer of The Supremes breaking through. Indeed, in terms of visibility, the Summer of ‘64 was an amazing time in which not only were African American Women were reeling off hit record after hit record (counter to the normal narrative that it was a full on British Invasion), but it was the first time that the women behind the hits blaring out on Top 40 radio gained a foothold in media visibility, notably television.
Dionne Warwick, in a number of ways was marketed almost like at “One Woman Supreme.” Look no further than the tri-panel photo cover used for her 3rd LP from which this track springs. It was the first time that she was featured rather prominently on her own LP cover, and the tri-panel effect is something Motown copied for two later Supremes LPs.
Meanwhile, her version of this once upon a time Drifters B-side gets a gauzy, dreamy arrangement that’s less ominous (and frankly less laden with stalker undertones as The Drifters version) and more full of healthy fantasy. It’s fair to say that this version was the template that Atlantic sprung forth with when arranging Dusty Springfield’s version in ‘68.
The Drifters “He’s Just A Playboy” (Atlantic 2253-B, 1964)
Playboys are an interesting phenom. Though a nemesis in a number of female soul classics, there were plenty of respectable men quick to warn against the advances of those more lecherous than themselves.
Cue this Drifters B-side. Not as saddled with ego as a number of these songs calling out casanovas tend to be, Johnny Moore offers a litany of reasons why not to bother with the heartbreaking alternate.
As it stands it’s one of those numerous b-side efforts that deserved to catch wind of Top 40 ears, but it remained a nice cautionary tale stuck to the bottom of “Sand In My Shoes.”
Martha & The Vandellas “I Hope You Had Better Luck Than I Did” (From the LP Sugar ‘n Spice, 1969)
*Happy Birthday Martha Reeves*
Calling out around the world, it’s the ambassador of Motown’s 73rd Birthday. With numerous chart entries, LPs and continuing the legacy by still touring endlessly, Martha Reeves is a living piece of American History along with being one of the finest entertainers that Motown gave the world.
We close out Martha Reeves week with an album track that could be considered “Jimmy Mack - Part II.” Although first recorded by The Marvelettes in 1966, it would prove one of the last Holland-Dozier-Holland efforts the Vandellas would record before that song writing team left Motown.
And this cocktail soaked kiss off sounded like the perfect thing for The Vandellas to release in the heady haze of 1967 turned into 1968. But, with the success of “Honey Chile” it went on to collect dust, finally surfacing 3 years after birth on the “Sugar ‘n Spice” LP, never seeing single release because, well, why give H-D-H more royalties than they already were receiving?
Anyways, it’s one of my favorite later Vandellas album tracks, and like the “Cream of The Crop” Supremes tracks that feature Florence Ballard, this track is one of the last releases that featured the best known combination of Vandellas, with Rosalind Ashford and Betty Kelley on backgrounds.
Martha & The Vandellas “Never Leave Your Baby’s Side” (Gordy 7048-B, 1966)
*Martha Reeves Week (Continued)*
Certain records you can play for pieces of them over and over and over again. The first 15 seconds of Fire, Brimstone and foreboding that kicks off this particular Motown B-side get at least 7 replays whenever I’m in the mood for it. It’s pretty epic, and I think you’ll play it a few times as well.
The rest of the song is wonderfully over the top, with Martha at her sermon giving best. And why wouldn’t she be? Given that her friend stole her beau on her wedding day! Beware of the treachery of those wenches that call themselves your friend! It’s the stuff of Peyton Place on vinyl.
Interesting that this, and the R&B smash topside “My Baby Loves Me” are the first time there aren’t explicitly any actual Vandellas on a Vandellas credited single release. In a lot of ways, Martha Reeves covertly makes her debut as a solo artist on this single.
Martha & The Vandellas “Darling, I Hum Our Song” (Gordy 7025-B, 1963)
In one way, Martha & The Vandellas single releases were pretty predictable through the end of 1964. All the A-sides were relatively uptempo songs pert and perky with palpable energy. All the B-sides were in one way or another a showcase for Martha’s skills at ballads and torch songs. Only with the release of “Motoring” in 1965 was this particular spell broken.
Out of all those B-sides, this revisit of an old Eddie Holland release has to be the most torchy of them all. More typical for Martha to wail in ecstasy, it’s a completely new experience for her to absolutely burn the tent down on a slowie.
Another weird byproduct of this period in the Vandellas career is that so rarely did B-sides make it to an LP unless they had already sprung from a previous LP. As known, there are plenty of ill-advised covers of then-current hits on their Heatwave LP. Had some of these B-sides been substituted for, say, their needless cover of “Then He Kissed Me” fans would have a better LP to listen to then and today.
Martha & The Vandellas “I Can’t Help It (I Love You)” (1966, Unreleased. From Spellbound:Lost & Found, 1966)
*Martha Reeves Week*
In a number of ways Martha & The Vandellas and Marvin Gaye were forever linked. The Vandellas first got national exposure by being denoted as the official background group on Marvin’s first R&B singles. Their role on “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow” “Hitchhike” & “Pride & Joy” are possibly the most prominent positions a girl group had on any record save The Raelettes constant exposure on Ray Charles records. So it comes to no surprise that their distinct signature on those records helped prime their ascendancy towards being one of the most cherished Motown acts as well.
Another thread would be, underneath it all, that they quite often shared and swapped material. In some obvious cases, and not so obvious in others, the bond created in those early days extended beyond their separation.
So they both would take stabs at this unreleased rather bluesy track. The Vandellas version from 1966 seems the most off the cuff, frank and unpolished. I wouldn’t be surprised that this is a rough demo cut before the slick production sheen of Marvin’s version would applied later. As it stands, it’s one of a number of tracks that could have blessed us with another Vandellas LP between “Dance Party” and “Watchout.”
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas “I’ve Got Nothing Left To Cling To” (1969, Unreleased. From Martha Reeves & The Vandellas 50th Anniversary:The Singles Collection, 2013)
*Martha Reeves Week*
It’s that time of the year again, where, well, Motown’s greatest Diva (sorry Diana) takes center stage on this Tumblr for her birthday week. As she closes in on nearly 60 years of entertaining audiences, she brings grit and grace to every appearance she makes on her still hectic touring schedule.
The incredible thing to think of is how prolific she and the various Vandellas (and honestly, more often than not The Andantes) were in Motown Studio A between 1962 and 1972. To her 20+ chart entries with The Vandellas, and some solo efforts, there’s a ”Brenda Holloway” like wealth of items that never saw the light of day when they were recorded for a variety of label politic and personal reasons.
This extremely adult song, not too thematically different than Dionne Warwick’s “Odds & Ends” sounded like the perfect thing to close out the summer of ‘69 with, but for whatever reason this soaring MOR-Soul beat ballad didn’t make out of the Motown vaults as the seasons and decade changed. We can blame a number of things (notably the label focus on pushing Diana solo and the operations off to Hollywood) but for now we can focus on the grit and grace of this musical longing.