(Written by A. B. Windom)
A second foray for Motown into the world of gospel music, following the Gospel Stars’ earlier He Lifted Me and its attendant LP The Great Gospel Stars, this is a brief (two and a half minutes) and exceedingly simple uptempo spiritual, recorded rather surprisingly in a straight R&B style.
The first thing you notice listening to I Am Bound is that it features a bass lead vocal, an almost impossibly deep-voiced performance by an unidentified singer whose name has sadly been lost to history. Whoever he is, he’s on fine form here, testifying with full-on vocal power and carrying the (admittedly uncomplicated) tune with admirable aplomb.
The second thing you notice listening to I Am Bound is that it’s really, really similar to Marvin Gaye’s Pride And Joy, which would be released two years later, featuring almost exactly the same tempo and a very similar tune in the chorus (the “I am bound” backing vocals here are identical to the “Pride and joy / baby boy” bit in Gaye’s song). It’s a rollicking ride, anyway.
The third thing you notice listening to I Am Bound is how good the band performance is, especially the energetic, effervescent drumming. Now, at the time this was recorded (by an unknown producer, on an unknown date, featuring unknown singers), Marvin Gaye was primarily known in the Hitsville stable as session drummer Marvin Pentz Gay Jr., and it’s really, really tempting, though obviously completely impossible to prove either way, to posit that perhaps Gaye himself was the drummer on this long-forgotten record. We’ll never know, of course, with everyone known to be involved having since passed on, but it’s a tantalising thought.
Anyway, this is a really unexpected burst of infectious enthusiasm, and although the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 refer to it as “old-fashioned testifying”, to me it comes across as younger and more vital than that description makes it sound; more R&B than gospel, backed up by that fully rocking drum track. It’s a refreshing approach, anyway, and considering the grim spectacle of a hectoring, dour session of po-faced sermonising conjured up by the title and group name, it’s a relief to say the least.
This was the Golden Harmoneers’ only Motown single release, and apparently the B-side Precious Memories is the one which has stood the test of time; not being an avid gospel listener, I’ll have to take people’s word for that, but to me this is a fine, fun early Motown single which isn’t hemmed in by the “gospel” tag.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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“Romance Without Finance”
|The Golden Harmoneers
” Precious Memories”