B-side of I Am Bound
(Written by Robert A. Martin and Georgia Jones)
Slow as molasses, a rather striking contrast to the rollicking A-side I Am Bound, this record – supposedly the Golden Harmoneers’ only contribution to posterity, described in the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 as having “resounded with gospel lovers” throughout the years – is a genuinely strange and not entirely comfortable listening experience.
Almost every facet of Precious Memories, other than subject matter, is the exact opposite of what happened on the A-side. Where I Am Bound was uptempo, simple, joyful and danceable, Precious Memories is slow (and I mean really slow, like 30bpm slow), complicated (with shifts in key and tempo, eerie layers of both organ and Ondioline washing in and out, and intricate multi-part vocal harmonies which tend toward the avant-garde for pop music in 1961, never mind gospel music), contemplative and sombre.
It actually reminds me a bit of Robert Wyatt, in fact, except that the lead singer has a really strong, straightforward, commercial voice, suggesting he could have had a great career in secular pop. (Which he may well have done, of course, since I’ve no idea who he is).
Ironically, all these bells and whistles and sonic experimentation actually detract on first listen from the message of the song and the spiritual element, meaning it takes a couple more listens to work out what it is that’s actually being sung about here. On that level, it probably fails as a gospel record, but it’s undeniably musically fascinating and there are several (fairly random) parts that strike a nerve and demand attention, some of them causing goosebumps, some of them just a baffled “what the heck?” reaction, before it stops completely dead on 2:53, with almost no warning.
I have no idea who the Golden Harmoneers were (I know the late George Anderson was heavily involved, though I don’t know if he’s on this record, and the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 refer to another gospel group, the Sons of Zion, as sharing some members), but the two sides of this, their one and only Motown single, are highly intriguing, if perhaps just a little too “out there” for the legendarily-conservative gospel audiences Berry Gordy was targeting with this sort of release.
Luckily, with the very next Motown single, Gordy would finally – and totally unexpectedly – hit the commercial bullseye he’d so long been aiming for.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(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!)
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|The Golden Harmoneers
“I Am Bound”
“Please Mr Postman”