B-side of Small Sad Sam
(Written by Robert Gordy)
The first Motown single by “Bob Kayli” (a.k.a. Robert Gordy, youngest brother of Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr), Small Sad Sam, a dismal cover of a parody of a third naff record, had been an embarrassing failure on both an artistic and commercial level. This B-side, the first Motown record to feature a writing credit for Robert himself, is much better than the A-side.
For a start, it’s not comedy, which is an instant and merciful relief. Instead, it’s an earnest, R&B and blues-inflected cha-cha, which works in practice much better than it sounds in theory. It’s light-hearted, sure, but without ever trying to be funny.
Secondly, it features a much stronger lead vocal; “Kayli” is much more in his element here, delivering his bluesy croon in a competent tenor, rather than aping a white spoken-word comedian.
Thirdly, nobody sounds embarrassed to be doing this. The Supremes again show up on backing vocals, but unlike the A-side (where they were wholly wasted), they’re at least given something to do here, and give it a passable go. The band is on better form as well, with some piano flourishes played with abandon, and maracas shaken throughout.
This shouldn’t be taken as a wholehearted recommendation – it’s not great, not by any means – but it’s nice enough. Nowhere near as bad (or as cringeworthy) as the A-side, at any rate.
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.
(Or maybe you’re only interested in Bob Kayli? Click for more.)
“Small Sad Sam”
“Whose Heart (Are You Gonna Break Now)”