(Written by Berry Gordy)
It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Mable John. The first female vocalist to release a record on Motown, the likeable Who Wouldn’t Love A Man Like That, Mable was a charismatic singer with a big voice, as well as a close friend of Berry Gordy who also held any number of hands and performed any number of menial jobs during Motown’s formative years (most notably working as Gordy’s chauffeur, driving him all over the city of Detroit as he hustled to grow his fledgling business).
Unfortunately for Mable, however, she had the extreme misfortune to come along and make her Motown recording debut at almost exactly the same time as the arrival of Mary Wells; as a result, when Wells’ career started to take off in a way nobody at the label had really expected (at least not so soon), Mable found herself and her recording career put on the back burner to a certain extent.
That might go some way to explaining why almost a year had elapsed since her debut record before this, her second Motown single, was eventually scheduled for release. When it did finally appear, it flopped unceremoniously.
The record didn’t fail for want of trying, though, either on the part of Mable or Motown. Written and produced especially for her by Berry Gordy, at a time when such endeavours were becoming increasingly rare as more and more of Gordy’s time was taken up with running the business, No Love went through two different pressings as Tamla financed a string-laden re-recording less than a month after release, after noting the single had been sat unbought on record store shelves.
A defiant, earthy, bluesy doo-wop number, done at a pace so slow it’s almost stationary, this follows in the footsteps of Who Wouldn’t Love A Man Like That in being enjoyable but not especially memorable, in either version. The song doesn’t really go anywhere, and instead acts solely as a vehicle for Mable to show off her formidable pipes.
Indeed, the tune and structure proceed in almost wholly predictable doo-wop fashion except for one riveting bit at 1:29 (in the “strings” version) or 1:37 (in the original version), when Mable declares that she would rather be hurt in love “than to never – than to NEVER – than to never be loved at all”, and not only does the unexpected repeat break things up refreshingly, but the tune changes key on her second “never” and briefly threatens to take off into the stratosphere. Sadly, it doesn’t last, and the song eases back into its fun-but-limited standard groove through to the end.
The original version, whose instrumentation is a little shaky and which sounds a bit cheap compared to the strings version, features a long, pretty instrumental intro – rhythmic piano, echoey drums and chiming guitars – which turn into the arpeggio backing for the rest of the song and which introduce Mable’s first line – I guess there’s no love – in soft fashion. The bluesier second version, the “strings” version, omits the intro entirely, instead starting with Mable singing acapella in a cold open, and is generally slower and louder than the first pressing. I think it’s the better of the two, but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see why this didn’t do much by way of sales; neither version really sounds as though they were going to make it to the fun end of the charts.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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“Mighty Good Lovin'”
“Looking For A Man”