(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr.)
Eddie Holland’s previous single, If It’s Love (It’s Alright) / It’s Not Too Late, a pair of older cuts from the previously-released Eddie Holland album, had marked a kind of full stop on the first phase of his career. A would-be teen idol, with a cute face and the voice of Jackie Wilson, Eddie’s performing career had taken him first to United Artists and then, on his return to Motown, to the higher reaches of the charts with Jamie. However, he’d so far not managed to recapture the same success. Stymied both by a crippling dislike of live performance, and by an increasing realisation that his little brother Brian was making a lot more money from songwriting than Eddie was from records, things hadn’t panned out quite as expected.
The older of the Holland brothers didn’t immediately give up on his performing career to concentrate on writing songs, but there was an apparent re-evaluation of priorities in favour of the latter, and Eddie did begin to move in a new direction with his own recordings. There would be no further albums for Eddie Holland, but he’d cut six more singles as a singer before finally hanging up his mic as a commercial artist in 1964.
So, this record marks a turning point, a crossroads, call it what you will. Eddie had started to hang out more and more with Brian and his new songwriting partner, Lamont Dozier; the duo had previously been working with Freddie Gorman as their lyricist, but Gorman’s “day job” commitments with the postal service had made it difficult for the trio to get together and work on songs. Gorman’s effective replacement in the trio was Janie Bradford, the Hitsville receptionist, who was already a fine songwriter with a thick sheaf of writing credits in her own right – but the mix wasn’t quite right, and as 1962 closed and 1963 began, Eddie’s name started cropping up on more and more of Brian and Lamont’s productions. Soon enough, Holland-Dozier-Holland would become one of the most famous bylines in pop music.
But all of that was in the future; in the winter of 1962, when this was written and recorded, Eddie was a performer first, a songwriter second. He’d sung material co-written by Brian before, but this was the first time he’d worked as an artist with Lamont Dozier. Eddie had apparently helped co-write Lamont’s solitary Motown solo single, the engaging Dearest One, earlier in the year, and now it was time for the favour to be returned; Eddie needed new material, Eddie liked Brian’s stuff, Brian now came with Lamont, nothing more to be read into it.
In the intervening months, however, Brian and Lamont had developed greatly as a writing partnership, the innate knack for coming up with great tunes that each man already possessed turning into an understanding that, from their descriptions, seems to have almost verged on the telepathic, finishing each other’s melodies, one picking up the thread when the other got stuck, helping both raise their game considerably. It’s said that Eddie supposedly suggested to both Brian and Lamont that they could bring him on board as a lyricist to help them get more work done; tempting to wonder whether the sessions for this single were the starting point for that canny suggestion.
Certainly, the first results were promising. The American record-buying public may have disagreed (as with all Eddie’s records since Jamie, the single stiffed), but it’s difficult to argue this slow, chugging ballad isn’t the best A-side of Eddie Holland’s recording career so far.
The best thing about it is Eddie himself, who turns in his strongest lead vocal to date, dialling down the precise diction and Jackie Wilson impression a bit and instead just going for it, giving us a great example of the kind of soulful Sam Cooke “R&B croon” that Marvin Gaye had spent the best part of two years trying to nail. Seriously, he’s really good here.
The tune’s a good one, too, slinking along with handclaps and tinkling jazz piano while a bevy of horns drive proceedings forward. The horns are great, swelling behind the verses and then taking a parping oompah riff at the end of each verse. There isn’t a chorus as such, it’s just an endless loop of the same tune, but it’s a corking tune; it swoops and rises in all the right places, such that it’s a pleasure to listen to, and if you’re not clicking your fingers by the second verse, there’s something wrong with you. Both the Four Tops and Martha and the Vandellas would end up covering Darling, I Hum Our Song for B-side duty during the mid-Sixties Motown Golden Age. (It’s actually very similar to a later Martha and the Vandellas B-side, A Tear For The Girl, written by Eddie on his own).
It’s not a masterpiece, though. Its downfall, not for the first time, is the words. I don’t just mean the lyrics themselves, written down – though they do leave a little to be desired, a kind of embryonic first draft of the HDH team’s upcoming breakthrough, Martha and the Vandellas’ Come And Get These Memories, based around the notion of Eddie struggling in the aftermath of a breakup and finding it hard to listen to their former favourite record because it’s full of imagery about staying together forever and the like; sweet enough but let down by a “humming” gimmick that doesn’t really work.
No, I mean the way the words fit the song. The H-D-H writing process clearly wasn’t quite “there” yet, and so there are several moments, most noticeably at the end of each verse, where the tune shows the way for a big vocal delivery but Eddie just seems to run out of lyrics, leaving him with nothing to say; lines just hanging there, empty space (or, worse, humming) just when the music has pushed him centre stage and shone a spotlight on him. Despite the excellent music and the excellent lead vocal, the song just seems to run out of gas, momentarily stuttering and petering out, time and time and time again.
It’s incredibly frustrating, and it’s exactly the sort of flaw Eddie’s lyrics would come to iron out with laser precision later in the team’s development. That it’s nowhere near enough to kill the immense goodwill the record’s already built up is both fortunate, and a testament to the strength of the rest of the song. Which is really strong.
So, yeah, still plenty of room for improvement, but this is a big step forward for Eddie’s career on both sides of the glass.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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Motown Junkies has reviewed other Motown versions of this song:
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