(Licensed for British release via EMI/Tamla Motown)
Some Motown songs work because the match of singer and song is inspired, the character of the one giving extra weight to the meaning of the other. The A-side here, the crackling Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While), is a great example of that – Kim Weston is the sort of woman you could never imagine as a meek shrinking violet, and so when the Holland-Dozier-Holland team offered her an addition to the burgeoning canon of Motown post-breakup songs, her plea for a second chance comes over more like a demand.
Here on the flip, Kim turns in something more in keeping with the records she’d made before Motown worked out what to do with her (which is, of course, exactly what this is): a big-voiced, though pleasingly low-key torch song, gliding along (or, well, stuttering along, really, but more on that in a moment) on a cloud of strings in a would-be velvety, bluesy sort of way. Kim’s narrator is in a fix; she’s worried her boyfriend only likes her because she reminds him of his ex, and she’s letting him know his actions aren’t exactly helping the situation. It’s quite beautiful, in places, and it’s sung beautifully. But, beautiful though it is, Don’t Compare Me With Her trips up almost straight away, because… well, who in their right mind is comparing Kim Weston to other women?!
It is lovely, though. Very different from the A-side, of course, but still striking in its own way; another slowie hung on an off-the-peg 6/8 doo-wop skeleton, full of stops and starts and fitful breaks and coarse horn bursts and strange, unexpectedly sweet little moments. It’s an older recording – left in the can for almost a year and a half before being dusted off – and it shows in places: the LA session players are very far removed from the Motown sound, and despite all the chord and tempo changes, the song comes across as being complex rather than sophisticated. If anything, it feels like a dress rehearsal, an early (musical) proof of concept for the Supremes’ magnificent Who Could Ever Doubt My Love, aiming for the stars but with its makers’ inexperience visible through the crudely-stitched seams.
Where it absolutely doesn’t show is in the lead vocal. As is always the case on pretty much any of Kim’s records, the best thing here is Miss Weston herself, sounding assured and secure (even when playing a character who’s anything but); a singer finally finding her voice, in every sense. If it’s just too difficult to imagine the situation where anybody would conceivably be in a relationship with Kim and yet still pining for someone else, Kim still nails the part, bringing just enough of both outrage and fear to the table as she repeatedly coos her insistent request: “don’t compare me with her / DON’T compare me with her…”
I like the lyric here, too. It’s tempting to look at the unusual writing credit – the Holland-Dozier-Holland team with their old collaborator, the great Janie Bradford, in place of Brian Holland – and wonder whether the team having a female perspective in the writing room was a big step, because Kim’s narrator here is one of the most fully fleshed-out characters Motown had yet come up with back in the spring of 1964 when this was recorded.
Kim’s vocal is so ocean-liner smooth that, in my mind, the whole song gets smoothed out with her; it’s always a surprise when I actually come to play it and encounter its stark, jabbing strings and jarring time changes (most notably just after one and a half minutes, when the backing collapses completely to be replaced with a reprise of the staccato drum fill from the intro, with no regard for the fact Kim herself is stranded mid-sentence). It’s a mess – but it’s a likeable mess, and thanks to Kim’s vocal, rolling with the punches so adroitly you can’t help but applaud, it’s probably better than it has any right to be.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)
You’re reading Motown Junkies, an attempt to review every Motown A- and B-side ever released. Click on the “previous” and “next” buttons below to go back and forth through the catalogue, or visit the Master Index for a full list of reviews so far.
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“Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)”
“Things Are Changing”