The end of the Motown road for Geno Purifoy, a gospel-trained Southerner who recorded under the stage name “Gino Parks”, this is just about the loudest and angriest record Motown had released in its first four years of existence.
Held back for more than seven months after its recording, this record shows little of the subtle, clever musical touch writers Brian Holland or Mickey Stevenson were starting to become known for; perhaps that’s a result of having been co-written by professional loon Andre “Bacon Fat” Williams, who – revealingly – mentions in the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 2 that Motown boss Berry Gordy Jr. had actively “discontinued the blues stuff”, thereby limiting Parks’ opportunities – this was his first release since Same Thing over a year previously. (This is a revelation which may also go some way towards explaining how Hattie Littles’ Back In My Arms ended up being shelved.)
In those same liner notes, Williams describes this record as a conscious attempt to move Parks “out of blues territory”, believing it could become a crossover pop chart hit. This description is surprising, because Fire is actually a loud, raucous, disorganised mess, featuring syncopated, uncontrollable drums smashing out crazed rolls and fills, Parks screaming his lead vocal at the top of his lungs between long, breathless, gospel-inspired exhortations, the Love-Tones on backing vocals shouting the word “Fire!” over and over again, and an extended Fifties jazz-club instrumental break at 1:44 that’s almost genteel by comparison.
It’s certainly not blues, but it’s no pop record either; it’s at the absolute outer limits of jazz-influenced, gospel-tinged R&B, and almost defiantly uncommercial. Perhaps Motown had doubts about how the single would perform, explaining why they left it in the can for so long after it was finished before finally releasing it; if so, they were right. The single stiffed, and Parks’ Motown career was over. Save for one song, More Lovin’, co-written with Williams and Stevenson for Mable John (a song which didn’t see the light of day until the release of Mable’s superb CD compilation My Name Is Mable in 2004), his involvement with the company was pretty much through.
He didn’t leave the music industry altogether; after a 1966 single on Golden World, My Sophisticated Lady – written and produced by Andre Williams – Parks later cut the Northern Soul stomper Nerves Of Steel for Crazy Horse in the late Sixties, arranged by Berry Gordy’s ex-wife and former Motown polymath Raynoma Liles Gordy, “Miss Ray” herself, and written and produced by her then-husband Eddie Singleton.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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