b/w The Chaperone
(Written by Berry Gordy)
b/w The Chaperone
(Second pressing on Gordy Records rather than Motown)
For a start, I haven’t been able to dig up any hard information about LaBrenda Ben, not in any real sense. Things we can say for sure: she was a real person (and that was her real name), not a pseudonym for Brenda Holloway, Saundra Mallett Edwards or anyone else; she had various recording sessions at Motown from April 1962 through the summer of 1963, though precious little surviving material emerged until 2013, with the grab-bag download compilation Unreleased 1963; she seems to have been brought to Motown by writer/producer and keyboardist George Fowler, later put in charge of the Divinity Records gospel sub-label; there are 3 pictures of her in the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 2 (two of them on page 69 and a tinted portrait in the glossy CD wallet bit at the back). Beyond that, I know nothing at all. The Fowler link has led to conjecture that LaBrenda (sometimes written as two words, “La Brenda”) was a gospel singer who returned to the church after her brief Motown soujourn, but conjecture is all this can ever be.
Confusing matters still further is the label’s credit for “the Beljeans”. Unlike LaBrenda, that name does seem to have been made up – the “Beljeans” on this record are in fact the Vandellas. We know that, because this is actually a repurposed Vandellas track, originally released back in July 1962 with Saundra Mallett on lead vocals, and here simply re-released with Saundra’s vocal scrubbed off and LaBrenda’s dubbed over the top in its place.
(Indeed, original Motown (rather than Gordy) pressings of this single – that catalogue information at the top isn’t a mistake, this seems to have been listed for release on both the Motown and Gordy labels, though very few stock copies have turned up for the Motown version, which seems likely to have been withdrawn after the first print run – are credited to “LaBrenda Ben and the Vandellas” on this side, and have a matrix date of August 1962 (see label scan, left). Presumably, the fast-moving changes in the Vandellas’ fortunes, and Motown’s decision to market Martha Reeves and the Vandellas as a new artist, required some hasty rebranding, and might explain the confusing switch of labels.)
Camel Walk hadn’t exactly been a killer record in its original form, and so quite why Berry Gordy saw fit to essentially reissue it (one careful owner, very low sales, etc) is hard to understand. Presumably, the intention was to launch LaBrenda as an artist by re-using a song few had heard the first time round, a song he’d written, and may have felt deserved another crack of the whip – but the song in question is still pretty forgettable, and it doesn’t even suit LaBrenda’s voice properly. Penny for her thoughts on being handed down a pre-owned, scarcely-refurbished record to make her big début. Apart from anything else, the B-side, The Chaperone, and LaBrenda’s subsequent Motown single, Just Be Yourself, are marginally better records than this one, but also far more effective as showcases for Ms Ben’s voice.
LaBrenda does a slightly more convincing job with the song than Saundra had managed, but there’s not a lot to work with here – and as a lead vocalist for the Vandellas, she suffers in comparison with Martha Reeves. (Not that even Martha could have made anything truly essential out of this either).
Other than that, everything I said about the version released in July still stands here, because it’s literally exactly the same record; just because it’s had a new lead vocal slapped on top doesn’t stop it being an adequate, lifeless Loco-Motion pastiche that doesn’t properly reflect the talent of anyone involved in making it. This is actually very slightly better than the first version, but I’m loath to mark it any higher, just because of the sheer pointlessness of it all.
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:
- Saundra Mallett & the Vandellas (July 1962)
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“You Better Get In Line”
|LaBrenda Ben & The Beljeans