For a start, this was one of the last things Gloria Jean Williamson ever recorded with the Vandellas; this B-side was cut a full week after the Martha Reeves-led I’ll Have To Let Him Go, and no more recordings were released with Gloria on lead. (As explained in the review for the A-side, You’ll Never Cherish A Love So True (‘Til You Lose It), the “Vells” name was applied by Motown after Gloria had already left the group, in order to allow the label to issue their previously-recorded Gloria-led material following Motown’s decision to market them under the name “Martha and the Vandellas”.)
This was also the last release on Mel-o-dy Records in its original guise. The label, which had become very much Motown’s fourth-string R&B imprint after the higher-profile, higher-budget Tamla, Motown and Gordy labels, would release no more R&B records; the label was turned over to Al Klein of Dallas, who proceeded to change Mel-o-dy’s musical policy. The next two releases would be white-oriented comedy product, followed by thirteen (!) country & western singles.
Anyway. This is easily as good a record as the A-side. The song is a good one, with its lolloping, downtempo R&B groove and extremely agreeable horns, and the lyrics are good too (a nicely-observed sketch that sees Gloria’s narrator struggling with not wanting to answer the door to her boyfriend, knowing he’s no good for her – love and common sense being quite separate things, a theme that the Vandellas would return to time and again throughout the Sixties).
The Vandellas give their best backing vocal performances to date, high, melodic and confident (the Baby, baby, baby, walk on in refrain at the end is positivley magical), but while Gloria Jean Williamson is on good vocal form, her voice just never seems to quite “gel” either with the backing vocals or the band track, to the point that they sometimes sound like they’re from different records altogether.
(This isn’t Gloria’s fault, either – Martha Reeves later sang over the top of this band track to create her own version of There He Is (At My Door) in 1963, and experienced similar problems (see “Coverwatch” below). Neither of them gives what you could possibly term a bad performance, the lead vocals just don’t sound right against the backing. I’m no musicologist, so I can’t analyse exactly what goes wrong here, but on the evidence of both recordings, the song and arrangment seem to call for someone with a slightly deeper, huskier voice than either Gloria or Martha can provide. Actually, now that I come to think of it, and this has only just occurred to me, this sounds a little as though it was arranged for Marvin Gaye’s voice – something the Vandellas were well used to working with.)
Also, there’s a really naff “knocking” noise that crops up throughout this record whenever Gloria mentions the man knocking at the door – but it’s never really committed to, so it just ends up as a gimmick; as with the guiro part on the Miracles’ If Your Mother Only Knew, you can sort of see what they were trying for in the studio, but it’s an idea that should have been tried out, listened to and then quietly rejected. Martha’s version has the door-knocking noises mixed out, so wiser heads did eventually prevail, but it adds a tacky juvenile girl-group air to this record that sits poorly with its sophisticated style.
Ignore my carping. This is a fine record, and although it doesn’t quite sound right to me, since I can’t quite put my finger on what’s wrong with it, it would be unfair to mark it down too harshly.
(* The liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 2 credit this song to “Edward Holland Jr and Freddie Gorman”, which would be highly unusual if true, but the actual 45 labels and the ASCAP database credit it to the more usual songwriting trio (for the time) of Holland-Dozier-Gorman.)
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!)
Motown Junkies has reviewed other Motown versions of this song:
- Martha & the Vandellas (July 1964)
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“You’ll Never Cherish A Love So True (‘Til You Lose It)”