Mel-o-dy RecordsMel-o-dy M-104 (A), September 1962

b/w Show Me Some Sign

(Written by John Williams, Ray Reynolds and Ron Moore)

Label scan kindly provided by Lars “LG” Nilsson - www.seabear.se.  All label scans come from visitor contributions - if you'd like to send me a scan I don't have, please e-mail it to me at fosse8@gmail.com!A bit of a strange one, this.

Apart from the fact that it doesn’t ever seem to have actually been released (only a handful of promos have ever surfaced, and no stock copies at all), the Charters’ one and only Motown single – and by the looks of it, their one and only single full stop – was that rarest of curios, a self-contained record presented to Motown as a finished article.

Right from the off, Berry Gordy Jr. was determined that Motown would write and produce as much of its own catalogue as possible, and to that end he bought in very little pre-recorded material; stuff like Nick and the Jaguars’ Ich-i-bon #1, or Little Otis’ I Out-Duked The Duke, were very much exceptions to the rule.

The Charters, who according to the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 2 were a self-contained band from Toledo, Ohio (where the only copies of this record have been unearthed), appear to have pitched up at Hitsville with their completed master and paid for some DJ promo copies to be pressed up. Perhaps they were hoping to score a proper Motown release if the record picked up some radio play, or maybe they hoped that another label might step in if Motown weren’t interested. Either way, this is down as a release in the Motown record books, allocated to the lower-profile Mel-o-dy Records imprint but given a catalogue number, suggesting that stock copies were supposed to be pressed at some point, even if none actually materialised.

Anyway. Enough collector nerdiness, what about the record? It’s a very short song (running just over two minutes), and is best described as a decent song ruined by poor playing and bad production. The Charters aren’t the Funk Brothers by any stretch of the imagination, and listening to this just highlights how important Motown’s house band were for doing justice to – or even improving – the material they were given.

You can easily discern how, on paper, this would be a likeable bit of poppy, dancefloor R&B – the tune is nice, and the hook in the chorus (based on a bassy lead vocal doing a call-and-response with some high backing vocals shouting “Trouble lover!” in another key) is really good stuff. Unfortunately, it’s played in such a clunky, amateurish style that it would have really struggled to clear Quality Control. Rudimentary stabs of Hammond organ and poorly mixed, basic drums overwhelm the otherwise OK vocal harmonies (the lead Charter, whoever he is, has a very decent voice on him, quavering and throaty, perhaps slightly ahead of his time); the muffled production then threatens to derail the chorus, the high-pitched “Trouble lover!”s fuzzing noisily into the rest of the track, strident and dominating, pushing everything else away in rather irritating fashion. Presumably intentionally, the song tries to make use of the dischord between the deep lead and high-pitched backing vocals, resulting in a great hook, but such a trick needed to be carried off with the lightest and deftest of touches; the production here has the high vocals galumphing in over the top, creating a jarring effect that does nothing for this listener.

It’s a shame, because there’s a good song buried under the ropey performances and production, but it’s so badly done that I can’t justify giving it a higher mark than this.



(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!)

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Hattie Littles
“Here You Come”
The Charters
“Show Me Some Sign”