B-side of Soldier’s Plea
Co-written by Mickey Stevenson and Marvin’s girlfriend and soon-to-be wife Anna Gordy (the big sister of company boss Berry Gordy Jr.), it’s a jaunty R&B/pop number, at once dated and forward-looking; there are a handful of really nice, modern-sounding chord changes, accompanied by some great vocal touches from Marvin, and yet they’re stacked up cheek-by-jowl with some horribly conventional bits that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on white radio in the mid-Fifties.
Essentially, half of it sounds like Marvin taking the commercial steps forward he needed to take to get his faltering career out of first gear – slick, smooth, slinky, enticingly different and wholly charming – and the other half sounds like it was recorded at the same session as his previous single, an execrable cover version of the Chordettes’ Mr Sandman. (It wasn’t – this was recorded three months later, albeit then relegated to B-side status once Gaye recorded a new A-side, the admirable if undemanding Shirelles pastiche Soldier’s Plea – but you’d never guess from listening.)
The conflict between cut-and-thrust modern would-be hit single and conservatively-traditional pseudo-standard is set up in the first few seconds of the record. Opening with some neat brushed drums and a piano/horn signature, the first two bars are instantly attention-grabbing, followed by two bars which take the tune straight back down the cheesy supper-club route. The whole record is spent in this back-and-forth battle; it just can’t decide what sort of song it wants to be, and still hasn’t decided by the time it’s over.
If some of it is distinctly forgettable, though, then equally some of it is really endearing. Marvin sounds human and lovable, and he pulls out some neat vocal moves which win the listener over pretty quickly. It’s hard not to smile when he trills “If it’s the kind of love / That’s going to last me for-or-or-or-ever”, making one word stretch melismatically over a dozen syllables… and then there’s the big finish on the verse-ending line: “Cos I may wind up with a broken HEART”, followed by some smart interplay between Marvin and the Andantes (“Not me (Not me) / Not me (Not me)”). But the bits in between the highlights are awkward and off-putting.
It’s good, but it’s a case of a few great bits balancing out a few awful bits, rather than the whole thing being the enjoyably lightweight romp it apparently thinks it is. Still, it’s another important early step in the development of Marvin Gaye, Superstar Artist, and that alone would be enough to make it worth listening to just for historical reasons, even without its undoubtedly charming qualities.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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“Your Heart Belongs To Me”