B-side of Strange Love
Going all the way back to the very beginning, this is a cover of Marv Johnson’s Come To Me, the first ever Motown single back in January 1959. Almost three years had passed since that first hit, which had in many ways made everything that followed possible; Johnson himself was still racking up hits for United Artists, as part of the buy-out deal which had bankrolled Motown’s early days, but Berry Gordy still felt there was mileage in that first song, and produced this intriguing remake.
Intriguing, but unnecessary. Gordy and his songwriting stable had moved on in the intervening years, to the point that this sounds a little like a museum piece. Mary Wells is a much better singer than Marv Johnson ever was, and her lead vocal is far more likeable than Johnson’s; but she’s not so well-suited to the song, which was written as a Jackie Wilson soundalike, and her “hey-heyyyy”s on the chorus sound oddly forced and out of place.
The band’s increased confidence in the intervening years is noticeable, this version being much heavier, more robust and sax-heavy than the original’s doo-wop flavoured R&B stew of tambourine and male vocal harmonies (although Robert Bateman does reprise his bass vocal from the original, stirring in a massive dollop of the Satintones’ I Know How It Feels for good measure). Indeed, the song has been rearranged slightly, to take advantage of the band’s better playing (and presumably to make more allowances for the greater range of its new vocalist); but again, it’s hard to escape the feeling that something from the original was lost in the process.
The biggest problem, really, is that Come To Me was never that great a song to start with. There’s not much in the material for either the band or the singer to work with, and it’s immediately obvious it wasn’t written with Mary Wells in mind, providing a distinctly unsatisfying experience. Compared to the stupendous beauty of the A-side Strange Love, it’s little more than an advertisement for the breadth of Wells’ range, but it’s difficult to see anyone breathlessly playing this one over and over again.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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Motown Junkies has reviewed other Motown versions of this song:
- Marv Johnson (January 1959)
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