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Tamla RecordsTamla T 54041 (B), May 1961

B-side of Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide

(Written by Anna Gordy Gaye and Harvey Fuqua)


Label scan kindly provided by Lars “LG” Nilsson - www.seabear.se.  All label scans come from visitor contributions - if you'd like to send me a scan I don't have, please e-mail it to me at fosse8@gmail.com!Out of the four sides released by Marvin Gay(e) in the space of one week in May 1961, this upbeat R&B/rock and roll number is the closest in terms of “feel” to Gaye’s later early-Sixties hits, but it’s also the least recognisable as a Marvin Gaye lead vocal.

As with the underwhelming A-side, this is a song done specifically at the request of the label, a half-arsed stab at Young People’s Music, a necessary chore in return for Tamla funding and releasing an album of MOR standards; once again, Marvin’s heart is palpably not in it.

It’s certainly much livelier than both the A-side and the preceding easy listening/smooth jazz single, (I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over / Witchcraft; it’s a rollicking uptempo number where the bored Funk Brothers are allowed to cut (a bit) loose; it’s really rather fun, following the Popcorn Wylie approach of pounding the hell out of a piano (indeed, it might actually be Popcorn himself on piano here, I don’t know), and featuring a series of enjoyable whoops and “Ow!”s to further enliven proceedings.

It’s not actually a bad song, judged on its own merits; it’s charming, and its structure was used almost wholesale on Eddie Holland’s equally-likeable If It’s Love (It’s Alright) a year later.

Marvin's début album, 'The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye' - not to be confused with the much better 'Moods of Marvin Gaye' from five years later - from which this song is taken.The main problems with this record are twofold. Firstly, that it’s almost impossible TO judge the song on its own merits, because its central refrain of Wop-bop-a-lu-bop / sha-lu-bop / sha-lu-bop (which starts the song and ends every chorus) is a thinly-veiled, staggeringly-obvious lift from Tutti Frutti, an impression only amplified by the spirited piano-bashing. It would be years before Berry Gordy would learn to trust his songwriters to come up with original ideas of their own, rather than trying to eke a living producing knock-offs to feed on the success of some recent well-known hit.

Secondly, while Marvin doesn’t sound quite as bored as he did on the A-side, he’s still only giving this about fifty per cent, tops. The song really calls for a forceful, full-on Gaye delivery to mask its pilfering and lack of lyrical content, but he sounds most un-Gayelike: flat, perfunctory, almost limp, doing those whoops and “Ow!”s by rote; going through the motions.

As a result, this isn’t as good as it could have been, and despite being the exact kind of thing Berry Gordy had in mind when trying to push Gaye towards R&B stardom rather than the lounge clubs, it doesn’t quite work, thus proving nobody’s point and ending up relegated to a B-side. A pity.

Footnote: This was co-written by Berry Gordy’s sister Anna, the namesake of big sister Gwen’s Anna Records label, and (more pertinently) Marvin Gaye’s soon-to-be wife, the woman to whom the incredible Here, My Dear LP was dedicated in 1978.

MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT

4/10

(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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Marvin Gaye
“Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide”
Mary Wells
“I Don’t Want To Take A Chance”