b/w Darling Tonight
(Written by Pete Hartfield)
Pete Hartfield’s one and only Motown appearance was the seventh (despite the catalogue number) single released on the short-lived Miracle Records imprint, a label so starved of funds and attention by this stage that none of its records were even expected to be hits. It didn’t disappoint, leaving the Miracle roster at a perfect 0-for-7 in terms of making the charts.
This is certainly one of the better records the label managed to put out during its brief existence, though. Hartfield, a promising R&B crooner from Flint who had caught the eye of the Motown top brass performing live around clubs in Detroit, was attracted to the company (as so many young singers were in the early days) by the opportunity to sing his own material.
Hartfield gives a strong vocal performance of his own song – he’s rough and throaty on the low notes, and soaringly sweet on the high notes – but the material is yet another standard-issue midtempo doo-wop number that just doesn’t grab the attention. It’s very similar to the Beatles’ own doo-wop pastiche Oh! Darling in terms of structure and delivery, but played completely straight and with little to commend it lyrically. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s certainly very well sung, but it’s just not interesting enough to merit further, um, interest.
A shame, because Hartfield’s voice is very good, and so well-suited to the doo-wop milieu that he might have become a massive star if he’d only been recording five years earlier. Instead, he was left behind by history; this was the only thing he recorded for Motown, and the music business seems to have lost track of him altogether shortly thereafter.
Indeed, very little else is known of Pete Hartfield; his only other contribution to musical history seems to have been a one-off single, Mighty Man on Baby Records, which sounds like a thin R&B take on Great Balls Of Fire (the only thing to commend it is Hartfield’s unbelievably long high note at 2:13, which he holds for an astonishing twenty seconds) and which could have been cut either before or after his brief fling with Motown. For reasons unknown, Mighty Man commands high prices on the collectors’ circuit, often being misclassified as “rare Northern Soul”, and is difficult to hear over the Internet; the only place I’ve found it is on this German soul blog, where it’s the first track of the last mix in the list (click the “play” button at the very bottom of that page).
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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