b/w Mellow In Coli
(Written by Clarence Paul and Dave Hamilton)
Over the last few days on Motown Junkies, we’ve had a great run of new records from Mary Wells, Kim Weston, the Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Supremes; even if some of them weren’t exactly classics, those artists’ records are always interesting to listen to, and to write about (and hopefully, to read about too.) And now… now for eight jazz records in a row. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
No, I’m not that enthusiastic either, quite honestly. But the idea is to cover every Motown single, and these are Motown singles. Don’t touch that dial, we’ll be right back. In the meantime, here’s Dave Hamilton.
The Workshop Jazz Records label, launched abortively in the spring of 1962 with two flop singles, was never quite committed to by Motown as a vehicle for seven-inch success; hence the company shoving out no less than four Workshop Jazz singles at the end of February 1963, the last 45s ever released under that imprint.
No, Workshop Jazz was really an album label, and as such formed a tantalising carrot for Berry Gordy to dangle in front of the Motown studio musicians. Spend your days recording pop and R&B, and you’ll get the opportunity to do what you really want to do – cut your own jazz albums. We’ll pick up the tab. When? Oh, don’t worry, we’ll let you know as soon as there’s a studio slot available. Now, back to work – these Carolyn Crawford B-sides won’t record themselves!
Unusually, Motown did actually honour this promise for a number of the present and future studio musicians, though few of the core “Funk Brothers” were ultimately granted Workshop Jazz LPs. Hamilton, who played guitar and vibes (the latter instrument being highlighted here), was one of the lucky ones, along with pianist/keyboardist Johnny Griffith, trombonist George Bohannon, and saxophonist Beans Bowles (whose album remained unreleased). Hamilton’s LP Blue Vibrations (pictured left), a selection of vibraphone instrumentals in a blues/jazz style (do you see what they did there?), came out in January 1963, and both sides of this single were taken from it by way of a promotional effort.
Anyway, this is completely ridiculous. Opening with a pseudo-avant garde burst of concept jazz (glissando stabs of Hammond organ, drums pounded to approximate a freight train slowing down), this almost immediately settles into a steady 12-bar blues loop, the drums and organ chugging along in a downtempo groove, with nearly four solid minutes of Hamilton’s vibraphone doodling over the top of it.
He’s undoubtedly a proficient vibes player, but it’s ludicrously boring, and listening to this is like being trapped in a supermarket bathroom, your cries for help drowned out by their piped in-store muzak. Perhaps fans of light, noodling jazz might enjoy this. I didn’t. As such, it’s getting a bad mark, even though it’s actually more authentically “jazz” than most of the other Workshop Jazz sides that had materialised to date. Sorry, jazz aficionados – I find this tedious in the extreme.
Supposedly, this is the better of the two sides. I’m not looking forward to flipping this one over, I don’t mind admitting.
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!)
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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“You Bring Back Memories”
“Mellow In Coli”