Miracle RecordsMiracle MIR 9 (B), October 1961

B-side of Angel In Blue

(Written by Janie Bradford and Berry Gordy)

If the A-side Angel In Blue had been baffling, a spoken-word parable delivered by white radio DJ Joel Sebastian as some sort of ego-massaging favour, a throwaway offer (“come round some time, we’ll cut a record on you!”) which somehow got out of hand, then this B-side is even odder. Conceived as a downtempo ballad, Sebastian can’t decide whether he should be singing or just reading the lyrics, and the result is two excruciatingly painful minutes of ham and cheese.

Like the A-side, there’s the germ of a half-decent song buried in here. This one is musically reminiscent in places of the Marvelettes’ lovely Forever a couple of years later, although some of the rhymes and half-rhymes are a tad forced – using the word Cinderella at the end of a line really limits your options, though Bradford and Gordy give it their best shot (made harder when, at one point, Sebastian inexplicably substitutes “told her” for the presumably intended “tell her”, proving he had literally no idea what he was doing) – but in someone else’s hands, it might have been salvageable. While the song isn’t too bad, however, it’s “sung” – and I use that term in the loosest possible sense – so very poorly that it’s a terrible record.

Sebastian’s singing voice is just appalling, a sort of high bass but flat and tuneless beyond redemption, and so he keeps reverting to his “dramatic” hammy spoken-word comfort zone, only to decide that he wants to sing the next couple of lines, only to give up when it’s not working, and so on for the entire duration of the record. The result is a laughable up-and-down mess that makes Sebastian sound as though he’s doing an awful William Shatner impression.

In many ways, these two sides are the polar opposite to Pete Hartfield’s Love Me – there, an obviously talented singer gave a great vocal delivery in the service of some massively subpar material, whereas here, Sebastian is given better songs (or, well, if not “better” then more promising, or perhaps intriguing at the very least), but torpedoes them so completely they’re hopelessly ruined.

You can just imagine Berry Gordy sitting in the producer’s chair trying desperately not to wince as Sebastian mangled his song so horribly – “no, no, Joel, that was great, really great, it’s gonna be a big hit” – his face getting sore from holding that fake smile in place as he internally tried to calculate how much money he was about to lose on this farce.

Nobody in their right mind would ever want to listen to this more than once.



(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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Joel Sebastian
“Angel In Blue”
Mary Wells
“Strange Love”