b/w Blue Cinderella
(Written by Beverley Humphrey)
The weirdest artefact in the Motown catalogue so far, this bizarre spoken-word vignette by white radio DJ Joel Sebastian – a friend and media contact of Berry Gordy Jr. – helped extend Miracle Records’ hitless streak to eight singles and counting.
Sebastian has a fine speaking voice, booming and clear, but his stentorian narration is hammy and over-dramatic, and the story he’s telling doesn’t really make a great deal of sense. On the surface, a man and a woman get together, the man points out he’s already engaged to be married to someone else, they both regret their choices; there’s a subtext which implies the woman is the man’s former partner, who’s since died, and the man is struggling to reconcile his love for her with his feelings for his new fiancée. Or maybe it’s just random nonsense, I don’t know. Sebastian, though, reads it so faux-passionately that it lands somewhere between a Sixties anti-drugs public service announcement and a really bad Shakespeare audio book.
It’s not acapella, and the backing track, all gentle guitars, hushed female choir and brushed drums, is quite pretty; pretty enough to make it sound as though there might be the kernel of a decent song buried here, certainly. There’s a third-bar chord change in particular which catches the ear in a very pleasing fashion. Unfortunately, the spoken-word narration kills it stone dead, and it’s so cheesy and bizarre I can’t really imagine anyone playing this more than once.
(Unless they had to, of course. I mean, I’ve just played it several times back to back to do this review, and I’m guessing that as a result, I’ve probably pushed myself up into something like the top 50 or so of the list of people who’ve listened to Angel In Blue the most times in all of history).
The liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 explain this baffling curio away as a vanity-feeding favour to Sebastian, who had ambitions to be a recording star, in return for his support playing Motown discs on his WXYZ radio show. If the ploy worked, it couldn’t save Miracle Records; this single stiffed (obviously) and after a few more commercial flops, the label was shut down for good a couple of months later. It didn’t help Sebastian either; he would have no more records released (on Motown or anywhere else) and quietly went back to his broadcasting career.
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!)
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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“I Can’t Believe”