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Tamla RecordsTamla T 54043 (B), June 1961

B-side of Misery

(Written by Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy)


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!If the A-side of this single, Misery, had sounded like something approaching a minor-key blues, here on the flip (for his last ever Motown B-side) Barrett Strong has a go at delivering the real thing.

A final teaming of Strong with the then-Motown songwriting “A” squad of Smokey Robinson and company boss Berry Gordy, this is a good song, but Strong’s performance, while fun as far as it goes, doesn’t go far enough. The band excel themselves – a slinky, smoky 3am backing track, underpinned by a great electric organ (or more likely Ondioline) part that runs through the whole song, set the mood perfectly – but while Strong’s voice sounds better than ever on these two sides, he most definitely isn’t a blues man, and just doesn’t have the right voice to carry the song. (Compare this performance with a bona fide blues artist like the great Singin’ Sammy Ward, or even a raw-throated, down-and-dirty R&B singer like Gino Parks or the excellently-named Henry Lumpkin, and it’s plain to see how much Strong’s vocal is lacking by comparison).

It’s hard to explain, because it’s not as though Strong sings badly – he sings very well, in fact. No, it’s just not a blues voice, which hampers what might otherwise have been a riveting song, and explains why this was tucked away on the flip side, instead of being used as a lead single (perhaps in an attempt to reposition Strong in the market as a blues-inflected R&B/pop star, as would eventually be the case for Marvin Gaye and to a lesser extent Stevie Wonder). Competent, but ultimately disappointing.

Motown wasn’t done with Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right just yet, though. The song was better than Strong’s performance, and its writers knew it; they gave it to Mary Wells for her second LP, The One Who Really Loves You, and – obviously, what with being Mary Wells and all – she nailed it, her superior-in-every-respect version eventually pitching up as the flip of a double A-side single in 1963.

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!)


COVERWATCH

Motown Junkies has reviewed other Motown versions of this song:


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.

(Or maybe you’re only interested in Barrett Strong? Click for more.)

Barrett Strong
“Misery”
The Miracles
“Broken Hearted”