(Released in the UK under license through Oriole Records)
Edward Holland Jr. cut just one solitary Motown album as a performer – the imaginatively-titled Eddie Holland, which came out in May 1962. Of all the songs on there which hadn’t already been used on singles, this one was the standout track, and it became his fourth Motown single in a little over ten months.
Between 1962 and 1964, there was a brief period when Holland existed in a dual role at Motown, as both a songwriter and a singer, racking up a run of fine singles while gradually being absorbed into a songwriting trio with his little brother Brian and Lamont Dozier.
The Eddie Holland LP predates this period (indeed, as far as we know, everything on it predates Eddie even having even met Lamont Dozier yet), and it’s really little more than a belated companion piece to his chart breakthrough single, Jamie; though Eddie has a couple of co-writer credits on there, the LP is dominated by compositions by producers Brian Holland and Mickey Stevenson.
No, when the album was made, Eddie Holland was a performer first and foremost, a chipper fellow with a Jackie Wilson voice doing lighthearted R&B/pop crossover material. Nowhere on the LP are those things more obvious than here.
Opening with a big flourish of strings (exactly the same as on Jamie – in fact, the influence of Jamie is writ large all over this, notwithstanding that it’s actually a markedly better song than its illustrious predecessor), Eddie gets proceedings off to an immediately-likeable start by gamely starting the record with a Jacques Brel-like shout of “Ha! Ha!” As with so many of Eddie Holland’s early Motown records, you can actually hear the smile on his face.
The “Ha! Ha!”s are one particularly memorable feature of his delivery here; the other is the chorus, where Eddie strings out the word “love” over eight syllables, with gaps in between – Is it lo- o- o- o- o- o- o-ove? Lo-o-o- o- o- o- o-ove? – in a fashion which is heavily redolent of Jackie Wilson, and in particular Reet Petite, a song written by Motown boss Berry Gordy. Eddie Holland, of course, used to do demo vocals for the songs Berry Gordy wrote for Jackie Wilson. You can hear that connection here with crystal clarity; this is, for all intents and purposes, the best indication we’ll ever have of what a hypothetical Jackie Wilson single on Motown might have sounded like had the label ever been able to release such a thing.
The rest of the record is basically a reworking of Jamie, twice as fast and much more likeable, with 50% more Jackie Wilson. Certainly it’s the most commercial single Eddie had released since then, with a stronger tune, and a really good lead vocal from Holland, still no great shakes technically but with an enthusiasm and feeling that compensates for a lack of top-level ability, coming out a winner. The All I wanna know in the chorus is some of his best vocal work to date, while the succession of throaty Ow!s are a nice touch.
It’s very string-heavy, and seems likely to have been recorded in Chicago at the same time as some of Smokey Robinson’s orchestral sessions with Riley C. Hampton for the Miracles. The result is a lush, expansive sound laid over a fairly traditional early-Sixties pop song, and a fine single. But it wasn’t a hit.
As well as being a good pop record, it’s also a relic, an artefact from a time in Motown’s history that was already disappearing in the rear view; the Eddie Holland who made the album had already started to move on, while Brian was working with Lamont Dozier testing the boundaries of pop songcraft. Within two years, Eddie would have cut his last single as a performer, and the three of them would be well on their way to songwriter immortality; this fun, jaunty romp would be a snapshot of a bygone age and a past life.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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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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“If Your Mother Only Knew”
“It’s Not Too Late”