B-side of Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam)
Not to be confused with Eddie Holland’s splendid Take A Chance On Me (the B-side of the Motown single released immediately before this one). No, despite an intriguing opening, this turns out to be a fairly pedestrian doo-wop record, mostly by-the-numbers stuff.
I’m being a little harsh; it does boast a couple of nice touches in the tune, the increasingly promising Holland/Bateman writing partnership teaming here with band member Marty Coleman to give a few little twists which elevate the record slightly above the pack. The intro, as mentioned, grabs the interest straight away, featuring a smartly-taken acapella with some unusual choices of chord change (fast becoming one of Brian Holland’s signature songwriting moves at this point), and the middle eight ends in similarly pleasing fashion – but these are just bluffs (or do I mean blinds? I’ve never really “got” poker analogies, me), distracting the listener from the otherwise totally standard 50s progression doo-wop structure. No, despite initial appearances to the contrary, there’s not much to report going on here song-wise.
Once again, this sort of thing might have been OK in 1959 (back when the Valadiers first auditioned for Berry Gordy, and when he was looking for any half-decent product to bulk out his nascent label’s release schedule), but by the end of 1961, by the time of this single’s release (a release which had presumably been significantly delayed, given its out-of-sequence Miracle Records catalogue number), the goalposts had been moved, both in terms of Motown and in terms of the wider musical world. New, higher standards were now in play, and a slight, adequately-performed, pretty but inconsequential doo-wop record just wasn’t going to cut the mustard; this is one of those, and accordingly it doesn’t.
It’s really only of interest (and as is often the case when I say something is “of interest”, I mean “possibly mildly diverting to me and any other Motown nerds”) for one reason, and that’s this. Readers with attention spans of moderate length may remember (from one page ago) that the A-side of this record, Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam), was included on The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 in a version dubbed from a 45rpm vinyl single due to the compilers not being able to locate a master tape. The resulting version sounds pretty horrible to my ears, subject to a lot of warping and bum notes. This B-side, however, apparently recorded several months before the top side had even been written, suffered no such historical ignominy; Take A Chance therefore affords you, Modern Motown Listener of Leisure, the opportunity to judge the Valadiers’ harmonies on their own merits.
Sad to report, they’re really not so hot. The rich, low-baritone acapella intro is probably the best bit of singing here; the rest is competent, but uninspiring, and the lead and backing vocals never really gel, certainly not in the spellbinding way that other Motown vocal groups like the Miracles and Satintones had managed.
The Valadiers would have two more Motown singles, spaced out over the course of the next year and a half, but never really ascended to greater things while their erstwhile labelmates moved up to the next level. They will at least always be the only act ever to score a chart hit for Miracle Records, thus carving out their own tiny little place in the Motown Story.
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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“Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam)”
“Actions Speak Louder Than Words”