b/w That’s No Lie
(Written by Mickey Stevenson)
The Motown career of Geno Purifoy, an Alabama-born gospel singer who recorded under the name Gino Parks after moving north and going secular, had got off to a decidedly shaky start. Originally signed to the label along with professional oddball and occasional duet partner Andre Williams, Motown had struggled to find a place for either of them. The story of how Gino Parks’ name wound up on the off-kilter Coasters parody Blibberin’ Blabbin’ Blues, originally credited to a new vocal trio, “Hank, Gino & Bob”, with Parks joining Satintone Robert Bateman and the excellently-named Henry Lumpkin, is told on that page.
Perhaps mercifully for Parks, that first record doesn’t seem to have made it as far as the shops – some sources state Motown didn’t even bother getting promos pressed up – but someone in the company clearly believed in him.
Accordingly, Gino got to take a second bite of the debut single cherry. He was removed from the low-profile Miracle Records subsidiary – only a few months old, but already looking like something of a lost cause – and transferred over to Tamla Records, paired up with the company’s newest and hottest songwriter Mickey Stevenson, and his record was produced by Berry Gordy himself.
Parks’ account in The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 has this song being almost improvised on the hoof; Mary Wells was late for a session with Stevenson and the band, Parks happened to be in the studio, and together they thrashed out the basic structure of Same Thing then and there. The result is a straight-down-the-line Fifties-style record, a raw, gutsy blast of coruscating R&B, more in line with Parks’ pre-Motown stuff than the “Hank, Gino & Bob” sides but much, much punchier.
The record starts out with a ruminative acapella intro, Parks ominously intoning “Whoa, I love you girl / But that’s something that worries me, yeah” in the finest blues fashion, and you don’t know where this is going or what’s about to happen. But then just under ten seconds in, he screams “ONCE, I GAVE UP MY HEART!!!”, and so begins a surprisingly infectious and swaggering early Motown non-hit. It’s not a fantastic song (it’s pretty simplistic and it doesn’t do anything unexpected), but it will get you dancing; this is probably the jauntiest, most alive dancefloor single the label had released since Barrett Strong’s Money (That’s What I Want) almost two years previously, a neater and more commercial song than the Contours’ similarly torrid Whole Lotta Woman a few months before.
The band, anchored by some well-judged bursts of jazz sax, are quick to settle into a groove that’s really little more than an unadorned Fifties dance number, but none the worse for it. Their robust, snappy performance is further evidence of the development of the Motown house band in mid-1961; musically, everyone involved has come on in leaps and bounds from those shaky, tentative first singles. Parks is on fine form, too; perhaps mindful of Berry Gordy in the producer’s chair, and aware that by being given Stevenson and a Tamla single, he’d been offered a break not afforded to some other Motown signings, he gives it his all, a full-throated, rasping delivery somewhere between Jackie Wilson and erstwhile bandmate Henry Lumpkin, jumping with ease between paint-stripping James Brown screeches and melodic softness. Lyrically, Parks recounts the story of an earlier failed relationship and admits he can’t help but worry he’s headed down a similar path with the current object of his affections. A fine song and a fine performance; not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but a real breath of fresh air among innumerable downtempo doo-wop numbers and novelty records, and plenty of fun.
Nobody could have accused Gino of not giving it his all, but unfortunately the record failed to make any commercial impact on release. He wasn’t dropped, but Motown’s enthusiasm for breaking him as a potential solo star seems to have waned following the failure of this single. It would be over a year before Parks’ only other Motown single, the rousing Fire, would see a release, and there would be no more Gino Parks recording sessions with Berry Gordy at the helm; indeed, there would be precious few Gino Parks recording sessions at all, as the company went back to not knowing quite what to do with him.
(Footnote: The version of Same Thing on The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 omits the acapella intro, starting at 0:09 with Parks’ screamed first line proper. Presumably this was an accident rather than an editorial choice, as the liner notes don’t say anything about it; either that, or there were different pressings of the single out there unbeknownst to the compilers. Man, I’m such a nerd.)
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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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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“Looking For A Man”
“That’s No Lie”