B-side of Check Yourself
(Written by Berry Gordy)
The flip of the Temptations’ second single turns out to be the complete antithesis of the baffling, stop-start A-side Check Yourself. Where that was all musical experimentation, full of unexpected key and tempo changes and apparently specifically designed to frighten white radio audiences, this is an absolutely straight-down-the-line bit of late-period doo-wop.
Well-sung and really rather pretty, but utterly predictable. There’s some good vocal work – nothing amazing, no goosebumps to be had, but Melvin Franklin is on fine bass form, while Paul Williams (I think it’s Paul, anyway?) delivers another rich, throaty and attractive lead; he repeatedly swoops down to the bottom of his range, leading the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 to again namecheck Brook Benton (as a compliment), and it’s a fair comparison – but otherwise, the only defining feature of the record is that the arpeggio 50s progression seems to be being played on vibes or xylophone, lending a fresh sparseness to proceedings and freeing up the piano to carry the end-of-verse breaks.
It’s a nice touch, but the song is just too conventional to rise above the pack. You just can’t escape the feeling of having heard it all before. (Indeed, as the liner notes point out, if you’ve ever listened to Jerry Butler’s 1958 hit For Your Precious Love, you pretty much have heard it before, because they’re nearly the same song.) The best Motown material had moved beyond such generic doo-wop by the time this was released, but even among Motown’s 1961 doo-wop releases, this can’t be called the best of the crop. (Angel by the Satintones, since you asked).
Still, it is pretty. It also says something for Berry Gordy Jr, who produced both sides of this single, that although he copped a solo songwriting credit for Your Wonderful Love and shared the credit for Check Yourself with several members of the Temptations, he opted to plug the “weird” side rather than the “conventional” side as the single.
Both sides of this single would end up featuring on the Temptations’ début album, Meet the Temptations, released almost three years later in 1964. Meanwhile, this 7″ was the group’s final appearance on the soon-to-be-extinguished Miracle Records imprint; the next time the Temptations had a single release, they would be on the new Gordy label.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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